Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The benefits of a point-forward

Having watched Louisville's Terrence Williams on TV, it's obvious he's an excellent athlete who is projected as a small forward in the NBA. He'll likely come off the bench as a limited-minutes player used primarily as a defender -- one who can guard an NBA 3/2 man off the bench.

Williams (pictured here with Coach Pitino) does a good job of rebounding his position and creates extra possessions for his team. Offensively, he's an unselfish player.

Coach Pitino and Louisville work a lot on shooting drills, and since Williams has spent four years with Coach Pitino, I don't see him improving significantly as a shooter. [Had he been coached poorly the last several years, there might be room for improvement, but that's not the case here.] Speaking of coaching, it's interesting how Coach Pitino advised Williams to "imagine that he's always doing commercials on himself in public."

Williams' offensive game is a concern. He's a poor FT shooter, failing to hit more than 62 percent of his free throws in his college career. There aren't many NBA small forwards who are shooting in that range who are in their team's rotations.

On the other hand, he's improved as a 3-point shooter, but has room to improve as a scorer. At this point, he's a player who is likely to be drafted in the 25-35 range.

As this article in SI this week points out, "Williams fills the rarest role in college hoops — that of point forward, which means he orchestrates the offense from the small-forward position, leading his team in assists at 5.1 per game, with a 2.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio."

Louisville coach Rick Pitino knows that the two logical candidates to run the offense, 5'10" senior Andre McGee and 6'1" junior Edgar Sosa, "would rather score than assist, whereas T-Will would rather assist than score," and that Williams's court vision is second to none on Louisville's roster. At his height he can see over perimeter defenders; he can rebound and start fast breaks without the delay of an outlet pass; he can take ball-handling pressure off the guards or simply slide over from the wing and initiate offensive sets.

Williams is driven by what he feels after making a nice pass. Here's how he describes it:

"The feeling I get when I make a pass for an assist is like the one you'd get if you had a baby brother and every time he tried to walk, he fell down, until one time, he finally walked and you were there to see it. That's the kind of happiness I get from seeing other guys score."

Williams learned to appreciate the fine art of passing from watching Lakers great Magic Johnson. "My uncles used to show me old tapes of Magic," Williams says, "and I'd see the passes he'd make and think, 'That looks tight.'"

W's coach Don Nelson, who played Paul Pressey and Marques Johnson point-forwards in the mid-1980s while coaching the Bucks, is quoted in the SI story as saying, "It allow[ed] us to release our guards, who [were] not real quick, earlier, and alleviate[d] some of the pressure on them and [gave] me a chance to play two nonballhandling guards, like Kevin Grevey and Sidney Moncrief, together."

Nellie's requirements for the point-forward position?

He has to be a leader, has to rebound well, has to defend, has to have an assist-to-turnover ratio of at least 2 to 1 and has to be 6'5" or taller.