Terrence Williams poised to break out?
What is Terrence Williams' upside heading into his second NBA season?
Terrence Williams was one of my absolute favorite late-season fantasy success stories of 2009-10. After flashing some potential early in the season (posting three double-doubles in November), Williams redefined the term "Rookie Wall," shooting, pouting and social networking his way out of the New Jersey Nets' rotation. That's quite an accomplishment for a lottery pick on a 12-70 team.
By January, Williams was regularly logging DNPs and venting his frustration in a public manner on Twitter. But after getting his head straightened out (with the help of general manager Rod Thorn), Williams began clawing his way back into some regular playing time. By March, improved play and a string of injuries to teammates thrust Williams into a starting spot.
Williams responded by averaging 14.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists over the last month of the season. His atypical production for his position (a SG/SF who averaged 5.4 assists a night) made Williams a very popular endgame fantasy addition. He peaked with a magnificent 27-point, 13-rebound, 10 assist triple-double versus the Chicago Bulls on April 9, cementing his sleeper status in fantasy circles going into this fall's drafts.
Williams has already proven he can help out fantasy owners, even those in shallow leagues, but the question is can do it for 82 games. Will he be consistent enough to warrant even a late-round draft choice? To be blunt, now that he's no longer a secret, will Williams disappoint?
First and foremost, we need to examine Williams' developing role within the Nets' 2010-11 rotation. He entered the preseason the presumptive starter at shooting guard but seems to be getting beaten out by newcomer Anthony Morrow.
Morrow has gained an edge because he possesses a certain gift that has long managed to elude the mercurial Williams: an outside shot. Williams posted some of the ugliest shooting lines this side of Corey Brewer last year (the lowlight being a 3-for-17 night versus the Orlando Magic). The characterization of Williams not being able to shoot -- .401 from the field last season -- isn't totally fair. He did manage to hit 37 percent of his 3-pointers in March (going 10-for-27). But all in all, he's more capable of a 2-for-13 night from the floor than an 11-for-13 night. Morrow's ability to spread the floor likely will earn him the starter's nod.
For now, it looks as if Williams will be playing the role of sixth man. Williams has been regularly cracking 30 minutes per game in a strong preseason, which tells me that Williams will play his way into heavy minutes in the Nets' rotation. He has the added advantage of being able to play multiple positions. If the Nets should falter, Williams could easily slide into a starting spot at shooting guard or small forward, displacing Morrow or Travis Outlaw.
Statistically, Williams has a couple of glaring deficiencies. Someone with Williams' considerable athletic upside who is so anemic in the blocks and steals column is a genuine mystery. Maybe we shouldn't be expecting Williams to be Josh Smith 2.0, but his owners should be able to hope for at least a steal per game. Even when logging starting minutes, Williams struggled to crack half a steal per night. After all, Williams would seem to possess all the physical gifts to be a top defensive player, and if anyone can help Williams mine his defensive potential, it should be new coach Avery Johnson. So, it's reasonable to think Williams will up his steals total this season.
Percentage-wise, Williams somewhat makes up for his scary ratio from the floor by being almost average (72 percent) at the line. The problem with Williams at the line is he doesn't get there nearly as often as he should, especially since he prefers to drive the lane. Again, you have to assume his new coaches have seen him shoot by now and must be instructing Williams in the art of drawing contact.
In the end, draft Williams for his upside. Given the minutes, he's already a triple-double threat. His multipositional eligibility is an underrated asset. I think Williams does enough to carve out the 25-30 minutes a night he'll need to warrant drafting in medium-to-deep leagues, making him a nice endgame gamble starting around the 10th or 11th round.
John Cregan is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.
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