As the lingering excitement caused by the Terps spring football game last weekend and the beginning of the Randy Edsall era now dissipates temporarily, Terps fans can look ahead to this weekend, specifically May 8th for an indication of what’s to come for the basketball program. That’s because this Sunday, is the last day that college basketball players who have declared for the NBA draft but not hired agents can withdraw their names and return to college basketball for another season. The NBA actually grants players until June 13th to make the decision, but the NCAA will only recognize the eligibility of the players who withdraw before this Sunday’s deadline.
If I had to bet, guess or gauge from the rumors that have surrounded the situation since Jordan Williams elected to throw his own name into the proverbial ring of the NBA draft, I’d say that Williams has played his last game as a Terp. By Sunday we’ll all know for sure.
I’ve been tough on Williams draft prospects while remaining high on his potential contributions at the college level going forward. At the college level he’s a gifted and strong post presence with soft hands and an uncanny ability to get position for rebounds and to finish at the rim. As a pro, he’s undersized with questionable strength. His range is limited, with few if any consistent back to the basket weapons, his potential in a heavy pick and roll offense is limited by his inability to shoot from outside or to make opportunities for himself off the dribble. Although his hands are soft, I don’t think they’re big, as Williams rarely controls the ball one handed and rarely finishes strong. The lay-up opportunities available to Williams at the college level will be few and far between in the pros, he’ll have to dunk more to be a finisher at the next level. Significant minutes in an 82-game schedule would likely thin Williams’ frame out in a hurry adding to concerns about his strength and his ability to maintain it. At the end of the day, he’ll have his work cut out for him in trying to convince NBA execs that he’s worth a spot on their roster much less in their rotation.
All of that said however, most of those things are unlikely to change anytime soon under any circumstances and especially while Williams is cast as an unnatural 5 in an under stocked Terps frontcourt. And while the timing given the impending lockout may seem less than ideal for most, that may be what makes it ideal for Williams to jump now. If all or most of the bantered about prospects elect to remain in college, as many have already decided to do, then as a result you’d have to believe that Williams best chance at getting drafted highly (or at all) would be now, while the getting is good. That would be even truer if labor peace projects to change the minds of most of those who stay next year. In simple terms this year’s draft is as weak as the draft projects to be for the next few years, while next year’s draft could already be shaping up as one of the strongest.
If Williams ultimately projects to be a Lonnie Baxter type, he’ll make some money and likely have a more storied European career than he will in the NBA anyway…and there’s nothing wrong with that. If he too is already resigned to that reality then a chance to sneak into the draft and relevance, along with the chance to begin developing as a pro and as a natural 4, in that role, as a 4 in the pros…somewhere, makes sense now for seemingly every reason. If so, then the decision will be an easy one, although none too easy on fans of the Terps.