Tennessee forward Grant Williams has played his way into the NBA Draft this April. He is the centerpiece of one of the best teams in the nation, as the Volunteers rank No. 5 and are competing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The 6-foot-7, 236-pounder has averaged 19.6 points and 7.6 rebounds a game. He’s versatile, as he’s able to distribute (3.3 assists/game) and he can stretch a defense (35.1 percent from 3).
He’s also coming off a dominant performance over previously top-5 Kentucky. He led the Volunteers with 24 points on 13 shots in a 71-52 rout over the Wildcats.
He enters tonight’s contest against Mississippi State (9 p.m. EST, SEC Network) with some first-round projections in the NBA Draft. Let’s take a look at these prognostications:
Grant Williams NBA Draft Projections & Mock Draft
The most recent mock draft from Rob Dauster of NBC Sports fits Williams in the first round as the No. 25 pick. Dauster compares the Volunteer to several former lottery picks, including Tim Duncan and Ben Simmons.
On the one hand, I think that Williams’ lack of elite physical tools gets him something of a bad wrap. I think back to this stat from Sam Vecenie of The Athletic: Since 1992, there are just six high major players that have averaged at least 18 points, eight boards and three assists while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor, and all six (Tim Duncan, David West, Jared Dudley, Evan Turner, Ben Simmons and Caleb Swanigan) ended up being first round picks. Five of the six have, or will have, long and successful NBA careers. Williams doesn’t quite reach that threshold anymore — 19.0 points, 7.6 boards, 3.3 assists, 56.9 FG% — but that belabors the point. People that produce the way he produces in college tend to be able to produce in the NBA.
Our own Jon Adams left Williams off his most recent NBA Mock Draft. Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype lists him as the No. 32 overall prospect on his aggregate mock draft. The Athletic and Bleacher Report have him going No. 26, whereas SI.com relegates him to the second round at No. 41.
Grant Williams NBA Draft Big Board Rankings
On Aran Smith’s NBA Draft Net’s list of 100 players, Hunter appears out of the second round. He fits him right at the bottom of the list at No. 100.
ESPN’s Draft Board has him as the No. 7 power forward and No. 24 player overall. While criticized for his “lack of athleticism,” he is lauded for his expanding skillset.
Standing just 6-7 (at best) with a reported 6-11 wingspan and unspectacular athleticism, Williams needed to round out his game to become a more viable NBA prospect. He has done exactly that this season, improving his rebounding numbers considerably, nearly doubling his assist rate and shooting more than twice as many 3s.
Williams is still not the most confident outside shooter, often passing up open 3s to execute the Vols’ methodical and unselfish offense, but the flashes he has shown in this area are very encouraging. He steps into trail 3s confidently, attacks closeouts to pull up for midrange jumpers on occasion and shows a high release point and great touch that indicate there’s plenty of room for optimism. The fact that he’s also an elite screener, a tremendous rebounder, an intelligent defender and a reportedly awesome teammate will also work in his favor. He just turned 20 and is younger than all but four of the 17 sophomores — and all of the juniors — currently in our top 100.
Another way to earn attention from the NBA? Ken Pomeroy ranks him as the No. 7 player in the country. He stands next to other elite players such as Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett on that list.
Stay in that company, and he could be in for a surge up mock drafts.