• Sudeep Tumma

Scouting Report: Mark Williams' Incredible Physical Tools May Overtake His Flaws

An old-school game won't hold him back.

In an era when “big men are a dying breed.” this draft class boasts a multitude of high-level big men prospects.

Most fit the new age prototype, but Mark Williams — who might end up as a lottery pick — is an interesting case.

He’s an old-school big, but one who supplies immense physical tools and measurables.

The 7-1, 242-pound Williams possesses a 7-7 wingspan and 9-8 standing reach. He’s a defensive stalwart who can anchor an NBA defense.

Williams improved in a multitude of aspects as a sophomore, but his defense and rebounding were always strengths. With per-40 minute averages of 12.5 rebounds and 4.8 blocks, the numbers support the claim.

As a defender, Williams is a violent shot-blocker who displays terrific timing on his jumps and a great second jump with the necessary foot speed to slide and contest. He slides fluidly so he can jump off two feet to stay balanced and remains disciplined, as he doesn’t get fooled by pump fakes.

If he doesn’t swat a shot away, he alters many of them and does a good job staying vertical when he contests.

He has developed into a solid pick-and-roll defender as a drop coverage defender, using his lateral quickness and length on switches. And Duke switched most matchups in those situations.

Still, it’s an area there are some questions over how he’ll fare in the NBA in pick-and-roll sets where guards can pull up off the dribble and have the speed to drive by bigs.

And the even more head-scratching element is his one-on-one post defense woes despite his mammoth size down low.

Then as a rebounder, Williams’ physical tools and effort allow him to be an imposing force on the boards. Along with stellar anticipation, Williams’ raw strength allows him to gobble rebounds on both ends.

Despite only averaging 23.6 minutes, Williams tallies 2.6 offensive rebounds a game. He follows up shots so well and just uses his power to claw in and create second-chance opportunities.

He is a legitimate putback threat anytime a shot goes up, which speaks to his simple offensive game at this point.

Williams profiles — at this point — as a typical rim runner who excels as a pick-and-roll screener, on dump-offs, lobs, etc.

He shot an unreasonable 72.1% on his field-goal attempts this past season.

Williams was the beneficiary of a plethora of talented playmakers at Duke, but he exhibited a canny ability to subtly position his body to receive passes. He’d angle out defenders to create a crease for a passing lane, patiently roll in pick-and-roll sets to keep the passing lane open or would inch into open space to receive a pass when his defender went to help.

He flaunts excellent hands to seemingly catch everything along with tremendous power and touch to finish through contact.

In transition, Williams runs hard up and down the court with solid straight-line speed/mobility for his size. As a result, he’s rewarded with quite a few easy baskets on the break.

With all that, you can envision how a guy who tried to ferociously dunk everything within 3 feet would shoot in the 70s.

But along with that, he — albeit not too often — flashed low post prowess. It was mostly on post hooks/layups with little creativity but with ample footwork and good utilization of pump fakes.

The further development of a low-post and eventual face-up game is what teams would gamble on with Williams. That and some semblance of jump shooting.

Because right now, there’s close to nothing.

On his whopping one 3-point attempt this season, Williams revealed an average/below-average release speed with a somewhat low release point on his jumper.

His mid-range is developing slowly, there was some of it at Duke, but it’s another aspect teams will hope for development.

The good news is he shoots 72.7% from the free-throw line, which is typically a good sign for someone to develop their jump shooting.

The other aspect we’ve seen some promise in is as a playmaker. At times, there are some premium flashes of playmaking skills. You see the touch passes, good velocity on outlet passes and the vision to pass out of the low post.

Still, it’s more promising than a complete skillset, which is a testament to his overall draft profile.

He’s the classic athletic big man who runs the floor, plays tough defense, grabs boards and is an elite shot blocker.

While his appeal would be much greater in a different era, there’s still appeal for certain teams to have a player of his nature. Enough to likely be a mid-to-late first-round pick. His development will be key going forward.

But most importantly, his stay in the league will hinge on how he fares against small-ball lineups. He’ll need to stick defensively and not be exposed as a liability.

Plus, when you look at a holistic scope, he retains no perimeter-orientated game. Unlike the trio of Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith and Chet Holmgren who all seem to handle like guards, shoot at a high clip, put the ball on the floor and fit the modern-day superlative, Williams doesn’t give you that same skill set, which is so lauded nowadays.

The questions: will he develop it? Will he become a serviceable jump shooter, ball-handler and playmaker? Or will he be so valuable in other aspects that he’ll flourish in spite of not having those traits?

Those questions are at the crux of his NBA potential.

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