TUCSON, Ariz. -- I've been Derrick Williams' biggest critic since he started surging up draft boards midway through the season.
Despite his consistent and efficient production, I never thought he projected well at the next level -- at least to the level of an expected lottery, and possible No. 1 overall pick.
The knocks on his game are clear -- he's a tweener who won't fit as a small forward or a power forward. Say what you want about his stellar three-point shooting, but Williams doesn't have the make up to play the three and only the three.
He can't create off of the dribble from three-point range, he has nothing close to a pull-up jump shot in his arsenal, and there's no way he can defend NBA small forwards.
As for the power forward position, Williams does have a knack for getting to the charity stripe and finishing around the basket, but he has zero low-post moves, he plays below the rim, and he lacks a killer instinct on the boards and on defense.
According to these points and conventional thinking, Williams won't be more than a serviceable role player in the NBA. But head coach Sean Miller helped sway my decision during his press conference last Thursday.
Few are more bias than Williams' head coach and biggest advocate, but the words made complete sense. When I asked how Williams projects at the NBA level, Miller said, "I think he'll be outstanding, I really do. I don't know a lot about the NBA, but I do know a lot about Derrick and I think he'll do a great job, mostly because he's such a great kid and he'll continue to do a great job like he has here."
Remember Williams when he first came to Tucson?
He didn't even start his first game as a Wildcat. Three-pointers were foreign, double-teams never came and Williams made his living from five feet and in.
But Williams worked his tail off in the offseason to come back bigger, quicker and a better shooter, and it showed. He's evolved into much more of a complete player, and keep in mind he's only 20 years old.
It's easy to tell which guys will maximize their talent based off of their character and work ethic. Williams has both. He's always been underrated and grounded, even after winning Pac-10 Player of the Year and finishing in the top five for the Naismith Award.
I never questioned Williams' work ethic and character, however, as it's been advertised by Miller all season long. What I did question was his potential at 6-foot-8, 245 pounds.
What position is he? Who will he guard?
The answer: He's just a basketball player.
Standard positions are outdated in the NBA. With so many multi-talented guys in the league, restricting a player to a positional label makes zero sense.
Why can't Williams be a big three who doesn't have blazing speed but can catch alley-oops, knock down open threes and post-up smaller defenders?
Why can't Williams also play the role of an undersized four who can bang inside, get to the foul line while spreading the floor with his newfound shooting?
He can, and Williams will find the right situation where he's able to showcase all of his skills in different ways, while using his work ethic and 'underrated' attitude to grow and add new tools to his game like he did at Arizona.
Look at what undersized big men like Paul Milsap, Carl Landry, DeJuan Blair, Brandon Bass, and Glen Davis have done in the league. Williams has even more upside ate the ripe age of 20.
While Williams isn't worth a No. 1 pick in my eyes, and may not be a 10-time All-Star before it's all said and done, he can fit with an NBA team and turn into a worthwhile top-five or 10 pick.
There's no question he'll maximize his potential due to the type of person he is, and with the importance of standard positions disappearing by the day, Williams does have what it takes to turn into quite the pro after all.
That is if he even leaves Tucson.