The Cleveland Cavaliers are expected to address their needs for a point guard by taking Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 overall pick, but Arizona sophomore Derrick Williams believes that they would be overlooking the best player in this lukewarm draft class. Williams emerged as a potential game-changing force in the NCAA tournament when he manhandled Irving’s Duke team by scoring a career-high 32 points and dropping a punishing rebound putback jam in a 93-77 upset win.
“I feel I am the most NBA ready guy,” Williams said last week at the NBA combine in Chicago. “Whoever does choose me is making the right choice. Whoever doesn’t choose me, [I’ll] just try to get back at them for not choosing me.”
When asked about Irving possibly going No. 1 before the NBA lottery, Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld wasn’t ready to just hand him the honor. “A lot of people have said Kyrie. Not everybody said Kyrie. It’s not 100 percent certain that he is going to be the No. 1 pick. It’s going to depend who is picking and how he works out. He’s an outstanding player, no question about that. I’m sure a lot of people are considering him a very, very high pick.”
Williams probably would’ve gone first if the Wizards had landed the top choice in the lottery, but Minnesota is reportedly interested in moving the second overall pick, with Timberwolves General Manager David Kahn sounding less than enthusiastic about adding more young players to the NBA’s youngest team — especially with the 6-foot-9 Williams a tweener on a team whose best players are forwards Kevin Love and Michael Beasley.
The Wizards probably don’t have the veteran assets that the Timberwolves would likely want for such a valuable pick, which makes acquiring Williams more wishful thinking than anything else. Plus, Williams still hasn’t given up on playing for the Cavaliers, as he boldly stated last week that he was ready to fill the vacancy left by LeBron James’s departure while adding that he was willing to make a sacrifice in order to come to Ohio.
“Obviously I’ll have to change my college number,’’ Williams said. ‘’I wouldn’t be 23 if I went there. If you are the No. 1 pick, first thing they’ll think about when they had the No. 1 pick was LeBron, No. 23. Gotta get that number out of there. If they have me as the pick, big shoes to fill. They need a player like me.’’
Williams also surprised some at the NBA combine by saying that he is a small forward. It seems a bit early for Williams to box himself into one position so early, especially one that requires better playmaking skills than he displayed in two seasons in college. “Whoever picks me will find that out. I’m not a four, I’m a three,” said Williams, who averaged 19.5 points on 60 percent shooting, including 57 percent from the floor. “I’m a lot more skilled than most people think I am.”
The brash Williams has a high opinion of his talents, and Irving even said, “his transition to the NBA game will be easy.”
But Kansas forward Markieff Morris wasn’t completely sold on Williams, who had 27 points and seven rebounds in a loss to Kansas last season. “I didn’t think he was as good as advertised,” Morris said. “He got the benefit of the calls from the ref and we had to guard him different. He definitely had a good game against us, because we couldn’t guard him how we wanted to guard him, and that’s what happened.”
So when he hears that Williams is a lock to go in the top two, Morris said, “It’s still surprises me. What he did to Duke, he wouldn’t do that to me or my brother [Marcus]. I’m dead serious. He wouldn’t. At all. He’s good. But if we was to work out, I would go at him and I would be able to stop him more than people would expect, you know what I mean.”
Williams proved to be one of the better all-around athletes at the draft combine, tying Richmond’s Justin Harper for the most bench press reps of the 185 pound-bar (19). He also had a 34.5-inch vertical leap.
“I haven’t peaked yet. That’s the good thing about me in this draft. A lot of people in this draft have already peaked or reached their mountain. I haven’t hit the surface,” Williams said. “I’m not trying to be cocky or anything. But my main focus now is becoming Rookie of the Year.”