Undrafted free agent Alan Williams makes Summer League statement
Undrafted free agent Alan Williams made a strong case at Summer League to make an NBA roster.
The leader in scoring among rookies at summer league is not D'Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay. The leading rookie rebounder in Las Vegas also didn't go to Duke or Kentucky and wasn't drafted in the top-three.
Rather, the leader in both of these categories is an undrafted, undersized center by the name of Alan Williams. Out of UC Santa Barbara, Williams -- who is suiting up for the Houston Rockets as a free agent and is eligible to sign with any team -- is averaging 20.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game after a ridiculous 22 points and 20 rebounds in his final game of the week, a loss against the Philadelphia 76ers.
While Williams was pleased with his monstrous finale and his week overall, he couldn't help but point out that something was missing.
"I wish we'd have won more games," Williams said about his 2-3 Houston squad. "Individually, I think I did some good things. I did some things that I would hope some people take notice of. But it's always good to go out there and win."
Team-oriented players will always care most about wins and losses. That's just the nature of the game. But in an event like summer league, where wins and losses are largely inconsequential to the evaluation of players from a scouting perspective, it's undeniable that Williams did well this week.
His energy level on the boards has always been great, even going back to when he was one of the advanced metric darlings of college basketball over the course of the last three seasons. He's been in the top-10 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate over each of the last three seasons, and led the entire country in PER in 2014 at 35.7.
But this week, he kicked it up a notch, largely due to some work he did in the offseason. I spoke with a scout about Williams, and the first thing that he pointed out was that the 6-foot-8 big man seemed to have slimmed down, which may have pushed him into another gear as far as his endurance and athletic explosiveness. Williams himself confirmed as much after the game.
"I had to, I had to," Williams said with a smile when asked if he'd lost weight. "That's what the NBA guys want to see. Me being able to trim that baby fat that I had in college and continue to elevate my game and keep up with that same energy and intensity that I've had for so long."
That hard work has been emblematic of Williams' career to this point, as the big man went from a lightly recruited high school prospect all the way to this moment.
"You hear this about a lot of guys, I'm sure, he's a better person than he is a basketball player," Williams' coach at UC Santa Barbara, Bob Williams, told me prior to this 2014-15 season. "He's a phenomenal kid."
Williams did give a little blush when I relayed to him the superlatives that have been laid upon him as a teammate in the past, but he said his parents -- his mom is a police chief and his dad a judge -- instilled the best values in him possible to give him a shot at success.
"My parents did a really good job of making me the best man I can be," Williams said. "Not only the best basketball player, but the best man. And I don't know if that gives me a better chance [to make a team], but I definitely believe that it should be a contributing factor. Someone's character is always taken into place because you never know who's watching. You want guys that are going to go out there and put their best foot forward for the organization and I feel like I'm one of those guys who can be a model citizen, a great teammate, and go out there and bust my butt on the floor."
So, given the fact that he's a great teammate, a great rebounder, and a guy that works hard at all times, why hasn't a team signed him yet? Well, that same scout who gushed about his weight also noted to me that Williams does have some holes in his game that need fixing, particularly on the defensive end, if he's going to play in the league at his height. Largely, those concerns have to do with the fact that he's unfamiliar with guarding on the perimeter due to Santa Barbara playing a zone.
"It's different," Willaims noted when asked him about the differences between man and zone. "Having to guard those point guards off the pick-and-roll is tough for me. It's something I definitely need to improve on. But it's something I have time to do and with the right coaching staff and the right organization I feel like I can grow into a pretty good on-ball pick-and-roll defender."
If Williams can figure out the defensive aspect of the game, he will certainly have a pretty legitimate chance to become a role player in the NBA. And honestly, it's pretty hard to envision a circumstance where, after this week, one of the 30 teams in the NBA doesn't decide to invite him to training camp.
As for what Williams is doing until that happens?
"I'm just going to continue to work hard," Williams said. "I'm extremely blessed to be in the position I'm in. I'm so humbled and grateful to the Houston Rockets' organization to put me in this position right now. So whatever happens happens, and hopefully I can be playing in the NBA someday."
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