Kendall Williams, 6-foot-4 point guard, New Mexico
2013-14 stats: 16.0 PPG, 4.9 APG, 3.6 RPG, 1.6 SPG, .430 FG%, .389 3P%
One of college basketball’s best mid-major players over the past few seasons, Williams went under the radar nationally. The floor general put up consistent numbers throughout his college career, which was marked by Mountain West Conference accolades since he arrived on campus. Equipped with speed, size, scoring ability and playmaking skills, Williams’ value as a point guard is clear, but as a four-year senior, he could have an uphill battle in convincing NBA personnel that there still is upside to his game.
Career highlights: An impact player as a freshman, Williams posted the best shooting numbers of his career, 45.4 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from three-point range in his debut campaign, while averaging an even 11 points, four assists, three rebounds and 1.7 steals per game, en route to winning league top freshman honors in a year that included two wins over college superstar Jimmer Fredette’s BYU team and two double-digit assist outings. As a sophomore, Williams remained consistent, posting averages of 12.1 points, 4.2 assists and 3.3 rebounds, garnering second-team all-conference honors as the Lobos’ season concluded with an NCAA Tournament loss to Louisville. While Williams’ numbers weren’t especially gaudy his junior year—13.3 points, 4.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game; he did have a 46-point outburst, including a ridiculous 10 three-pointers, in a win over Colorado State—his considerable impact was reflected in winning the Mountain West’s player of the year award, though the season ended disappointingly with a shocking first-round tournament upset at the hands of Harvard. Williams took on more of a scoring role as a senior, averaging 16 points per game, to go along with 4.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds, again making first-team all-conference, as well as the league’s all-defensive team, but New Mexico would fall in the tournament’s opening round, this time to Stanford.
Strengths: Possessing excellent height for his position, Williams is also a speedster who can push the ball in transition, get into the lane off penetration and operate well in pick-and-roll scenarios. A solid distributor, Williams has good court vision and is a crafty finisher, using his length and decent athleticism. Williams has a good understanding of the game, knowing when to pass and when to score, and is an outside threat with the ability to get hot from deep. On the defensive end of the floor, his size and quickness can make him a nuisance to opposing ballhandlers, and off the ball, he plays the passing lanes well and is an effective rebounder from the backcourt.
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Weaknesses: Something Williams didn’t sufficiently address for the next level during his college tenure is his lack of bulk, which could lead to him getting pushed around as a professional. While this is correctable, Williams doesn’t have upper-echelon explosiveness, in comparison to the young point guards that dominate the NBA, so his physical stature will need to be addressed. Williams had some up-and-down performances in big games during his career and at times, it appeared that he forced the issue, but that’s nitpicking a bit. Probably the biggest concern about Williams is that he’s already reached his ceiling, or is close to it, and even with the polished nature of his game and experience level, pro personnel will wonder if they can do better, let alone if he’s an upgrade to what they already have.
Draft projection: Williams is a solid candidate to be a second-round pick, but he is in competition with similar seniors who would be surefire selections in a less loaded draft—not to mention potential international draft-and-stash picks and raw young talent perceived to have more upside—so he will have to distinguish himself in the pre-draft workout process. The perception of his leadership skills will be crucial, as will his ability to seamlessly make the jump into running an offense at the next level. Ultimately, Williams deserves that opportunity and will likely find himself as a reserve point guard on an NBA roster next season, pending solid outings at summer league and in training camp. The combination of size, playmaking, outside shooting and quickness Williams brings to the table is enough to give him the chance at a productive career as a steady role player.