Ziaire Williams a risk worth taking for Wizards at No. 15

Ziaire Williams runs on the court in a game against Utah

The Washington Wizards are picking in the middle of the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft. Whether they trade up, down or stay firm at No. 15, here is the latest in our series on draft prospects whom the Wizards could consider selecting.

2021 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Ziaire Williams

School/team: Stanford

Position: SF

Age: 19

Height: 6-9

Weight: 188

Wingspan: 6-10

2020/21 stats: 20 G, 10.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.6 bpg, 37.4 FG% (3.8/10.2), 29.1 3PT% (1.2/4.0), 79.6 FT%

Player comparison: Cam Reddish

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 15th, Ringer 17th, NBADraft.net 14th, Bleacher Report 24th

5 things to know:

- Williams is an explosive athlete with an advanced handle for a player his size, giving him one of the highest ceilings in the entire draft if he can polish off his skills as a scorer and playmaker. There's a lot of room to grow and his lone season at Stanford didn't help his draft stock, but Williams could be a multi-time All-Star if everything goes right. 

- He didn't shoot the ball well at all in college, but there's reason to be optimistic about his jumper improving in the NBA. Stanford ran everything through him last season and Williams had to take a large number of tough, pull-up jumpers, which could explain his bad percentages. But if you look at his mechanics, there isn't much to complain about, especially when he's shooting off the catch like he'll have to do much more at the next level. 



- In the midst of all the tough pull-ups he had to take last year, Williams showcased the potential to be a dangerous one-on-one scorer. He has a variety of moves to get his shot up off the dribble and has a good feel when manipulating his defender with a screen to get to his spot. Couple that with the size to get his shot off over smaller defenders and you have the potential for something special here offensively. 


- Williams needs to improve as a finisher. He has a slim frame and he wasn't operating with a ton of space in college, but as of right now, he's mostly a jump-shooter on offense. The best scorers pressure defenses at all three levels and if Williams can't keep defenses honest inside, he'll become much easier to defend. 

- His fundamentals on defense need a bit of work as well. Williams has the physical profile and feel for the game to become a very valuable defensive player, but he needs to improve on moving his feet and staying low when guarding smaller players. He doesn't have the strength yet to stick with bigger wings, so he'll have to demonstrate an ability to guard ball handlers and shooters if he's going to find consistent minutes at the next level. If he can't stay on the floor defensively, his offense won't be that useful, will it?

Fit with Wizards:

With where the Wizards are in the draft, the "NBA-ready" wings will probably be off the board by the time they're on the clock at No. 15. This might leave Williams as their best bet at acquiring a much-needed wing depth in the draft, and frankly, this would be a risk worth taking for Washington. 

Williams has great size and athletic tools who should be able to start his career in a spot-up shooter role next to Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal. His mechanics are clean and his solid free-throw percentage (79.6%) indicates a consistent shooting stroke. 

How quickly Williams picks up defensive schemes will be the determining factor for his playing time, but he has the tools and feel for the game to adjust quickly. Then as he gets more comfortable at the NBA level, the Wizards can steadily expand Williams' role to utilize his potential as a scorer. We've seen similar developmental plans for elite wings like Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Jayson Tatum while the Suns are currently in Year 3 of their successful plan with Mikal Bridges. 

The Wizards need wings and aren't a great spot to get a good one, so betting on a talented player like Williams could pay off in a big way down the line. It also doesn't hurt that a player like Williams would fit really well with someone like Deni Avdija in a wing core of the future.