Chances are Maryland forward Jordan Williams will hear his name called at some point during Thursday night’s NBA draft, though you might already be in bed by the time it happens. The majority of NBA draft experts have Williams, who was named all-ACC first team as a sophomore, pegged as a second-round pick.
“Williams was one of the best rebounders in college basketball last season -- but he was a bit on the flabby side. He showed strength and toughness in the paint, but his lack of explosive leaping ability and conditioning were major issues,” wrote ESPN’s Chad Ford, who has Williams ranked as his No. 48 prospect in the 2011 draft. “Williams might be slightly undersized for a center (he measured 6-8 3/4 in socks, 6-10 in shoes at Impact), but he's got a 6-11 1/2 wingspan, is physical and is a proven commodity on the boards.”
Reminiscent of Terrell Suggs and his Popeye’s Chicken, Williams has cut back on the cookies and ice cream since leaving College Park, and he has dropped nearly 20 pounds to prepare for a move to power forward.
He has worked out for at least a dozen teams, including the Heat, Thunder, Nuggets, Rockets, and Trail Blazers, who all have picks in the bottom third of the first round. But if he passes through that gauntlet into the second round, there will be no guarantees as he pursues the NBA dreams he left Maryland for.
I have said here before that for Williams, it’s all about landing in the right spot, one with low expectations, plenty of patience and a good coaching staff. So maybe Williams came out a year too early, breaking the hearts of Terps fans, but he was a productive college player who often flashed pro potential in the competitive ACC.
I think a good parallel is San Antonio forward DeJuan Blair, an undersized college center who left Pittsburgh after his sophomore season and was selected by the Spurs in the second round. His premature evacuation was second-guessed at the time, but he was a valuable role player for the Spurs in his first two seasons.
If Williams has a soft landing with a good organization, he will have an opportunity to learn in practice and watch on the sidelines for a year or two while continuing to develop his body. He might never become a star, but he can earn himself a nice living and play for a while. As we know, everybody loves those mediocre big men.
Your turn: What is the best possible landing spot for Williams?