The Golden State Warriors may be years removed from their championship seasons, but they aren’t going into rebuilding mode just yet.
With Klay Thompson set to return this upcoming season and Stephen Curry coming off a career year in his 12th season, there is still some hope for the Warriors to regain their status as one of the Western Conference’s elite teams.
Because of this, Golden State needs players who will help them win now. Usually, this means finding experienced veteran talent. But, this year, the Warriors have two NBA draft lottery picks at Nos. 7 and 14. While either of these can make for great trade leverage to acquire a new player who will fit their win-now mentality, the young talent that the draft has to offer can be tough to pass on.
Stanford’s Ziaire Williams is one of this year’s draft prospects. He interviewed with the Warriors last month and said he “got a great feel from them,” according to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Josh Schrock. He also worked out for Golden State earlier this month.
Williams is projected to be selected in a somewhat wide range, as some mock drafts have him going in the teens while others don’t have him off the board till later in the 20s. So it’s likely that the forward will be available when the Warriors are on the clock for their second lottery pick.
He likely wouldn’t be able to make significant contributions right away, as preferred, but Williams’ upside could make him a great player to have moving forward.
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Williams declared for the NBA draft following one season at Stanford, where he played 20 games — 14 of which were starts. He did, however, miss some games due to COVID protocols and a death in his family, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The freshman forward averaged 10.7 points on 37.4% shooting from the field. He also posted averages of 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 27.9 minutes, which were enough to earn him an honorable mention for the Pac-12 All-Freshman team.
Williams was also one of the 10 finalists for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year.
At the NBA Draft Combine, Williams’s height was recorded as 6-feet, 8.25-inches without shoes and 6-feet, 9.75-inches with shoes. He also has a wingspan of 6-feet, 10.25-inches. So height-wise, he should match up well enough against other forwards in the league.
None of Williams’ numbers at Stanford weren’t spectacular, but he showed flashes of developing an all-around game in his lone collegiate season.
The 19-year-old small forward posted the second triple-double in Stanford men’s basketball history in January when he had 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists in a victory over Washington. It was also the program’s first triple-double that included assists.
Regarding Williams’ strengths, Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports Bay Area noted his passing abilities in addition to highlighting his footwork, which will aid him on both ends of the court:
Williams already has good passing abilities — especially for someone at 6-foot-9 — and has solid footwork, smooth movement and good speed which helps him create space to get to his spots or score off drives and in transition.
His “explosive athleticism” and fluidity were key areas of Williams’ game that The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie pointed out in his draft guide. Williams’ height and wingspan will also benefit him against other wing players, particularly on the defensive end.
His 10.7 points per game in his lone season at Stanford is a respectable average, but it came from a low percentage of just 37.4% shooting from the field. So Williams has been an inefficient scorer and will need to work on improving that.
His 29.1% on 3-pointers wasn’t any better either, but his 4.0 attempts per game is telling of his willingness to be a long-range shooter. At 79.6% from the free throw line, Williams has proven he has potential as a shooter and can shoot well enough. It’s just a matter of refinement.
He also has a thin frame for a forward of his size. He weighed in at just 188.4 pounds at the combine, putting him more so in the range of a guard’s weight. If he doesn’t add extra weight, then it will be easy for NBA forwards to overpower him.
While Williams passes well for his size, he did average 2.9 turnovers at Stanford, so he will need to learn to take better care of the ball.