The Washington Wizards continued their series of pre-draft workouts Monday afternoon. But instead of a handful of players attending, it was a session for one: Robert Williams.
“I feel like a solo workout is better,” Williams said. “More explaining, more teaching you to do it the right way rather than throwing you out there with six other guys and just getting tired, getting through the workout.”
The 6-foot-9 power forward enters this year’s NBA draft after opting out of the draft last year to play one more season at Texas A&M. He played out of position during his sophomore season, and his jump shot and free throw percentage did not improve with an extra year of work at the college level. But while his offense may not be the best in his draft class, he has drawn interest for his defensive ability.
In his two years at Texas A&M, he won consecutive SEC defensive player of the year awards and made the SEC all-defensive team in back-to-back years.
He says the key to his defense is athleticism, which allows him to run faster and jump higher than expected for a player of his size; he stands 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds with a nearly 7-foot-6 wingspan. He averaged 9.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game and is one of the most productive defensive big men in this year’s draft.
Because of his size, Williams expects to see more time as a center rather than a small forward in the NBA, but to him that’s just another part of the draft process as he tackles “everything each team throws” at him.
Williams was not a volume scorer in college, but still put up efficient numbers, averaging 10.4 points per game and shooting 63.2 percent from the field. He can move well off the ball, setting screens and flying above the rim to catch alley-oops.
Scouts and media members who have watched him closely liken his game to that of the Houston Rockets’ Clint Capela. Williams has heard the comparison numerous times during the draft process, but he pushes against that idea.
“I watched him, he’s a great player, but I just feel like everyone is different,” Williams said. “I don’t think you can compare me to him.”
Nevertheless, Williams agrees that he would thrive in a similar situation as Capela — on a team with elite shooters and a defense he could anchor. Williams said that was something he would find in Washington, particularly with John Wall at point guard.
“He’s amazing,” Williams said of Wall. “He’s an elite passer, an elite guard. Coming off a pick and roll you have to pay attention to him as well as having to pay attention to me. It’s a win-win situation.”
But Williams emphasized that his defensive ability is what would make him a good fit for Washington, which finished 15th in overall team defensive efficiency in 2017-18.
During this year’s NCAA tournament, Williams closed down the lane with volleyball spike blocks in A&M’s wins over Providence and North Carolina. In the latter matchup, he spent time defending on the perimeter after Aggies Coach Billy Kennedy moved big man Tyler Davis into the lane, and Williams shut down Theo Pinson, the Tar Heels’ offensive catalyst.
“Defense, whether it’s switching or blocking, I feel like that’s my strongest attribute,” Williams said. “And it’s just about embracing it — wanting to stop a guard, having fun and guarding them out there. So once you’re comfortable with it you can get it.
“I definitely feel like they could use a big like me — a defensive stopper, an athletic big. I definitely could see myself fitting in Washington.”
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