Derrick Williams is articulate, polite and soft-spoken, but he also doesn’t mince words.
Asked if he was the best player available in the June 23 NBA Draft at the league’s recent combine in Chicago, the Arizona forward responded, “Yes, sir, I definitely am.”
Virtually everyone expects the Cavaliers to take Duke point guard Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 pick, but Williams will go soon — if not immediately — after.
Minnesota, which owns the No. 2 pick, will almost certainly nab Williams if it doesn’t trade its selection. If the Timberwolves do deal, the team acquiring their pick will likely have Williams in mind.
“Whoever does choose me is making the right choice,” Williams said. “Whoever doesn’t choose me, I’ll get back at them.”
Williams measured 6-foot-83⁄4 in shoes with a 7-11⁄2 wingspan at the combine and weighed 248 pounds with 10.8 percent body fat. But NBA teams seem divided on whether he’s best suited to play small forward or power forward.
Williams, who averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting .568 on 3-pointers (42-for-74) as a sophomore at Arizona, has no such uncertainty.
“I’m not a power forward,” he said. “I want to clear that up. I’m a small forward that can play the four.
“I have a lot of mismatches. If I have a taller guy, I’m going to try to take him outside and shoot or drive. If I have a smaller guy, I’m going to post him up.”
Williams did everything in the Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament win over Duke, finishing with 32 points and
13 rebounds. He hit five of six 3-pointers while going 11-for-17 from the field overall, including several highlight-reel dunks.
“Winning that game really put me among the top picks,” he said. “Even though we did lose to (eventual champion) UConn (in the Elite Eight), that (Duke) game really helped.”
Williams, who turned 21 on May 25, averaged 15.7 points and 7.1 rebounds as a freshman, but made just four of 16 3-pointers.
The fact his perimeter shooting improved so much as a sophomore, when Williams was named Pac-10 Player of the Year, is viewed as a positive by NBA scouts.
It’s also why former Arizona coach Lute Olson compared him to Philadelphia 76ers shooting guard Andre Iguodala, adding “with a jump shot.”
“I just try to play like myself,” Williams said. “I really don’t want to be anybody else. I get out there and do the things I know I can do.
“My body type, being 6-8, 6-9, 245, I am the most NBA-ready guy (in the draft). I can step in and make an immediate impact.”
Williams has also been compared to T’wolves forward Michael Beasley, originally taken by Miami with the No. 2 pick in 2008, but that’s not a total compliment. Though the 6-10, 235-pound Beasley is capable of putting up numbers, he’s also regarded as a “tweener,” meaning he’s not strong enough to play power forward and not quick enough to be a small forward.
Williams, however, has no doubt he can be a productive NBA small forward.
“Whoever picks me will find that out,” he said. “I’m not a four; I’m a three. I’m a lot more skilled than most people think I am.”
While it’s doubtful the Cavs will take Williams, who wore No. 23 at Arizona, with the first pick, the 21-year-old is not awed by the possibility of manning the position once occupied by LeBron James.
“That would be big shoes to fill, (but) they need a player like me,” he said. “I’m not really focused on who is going to pick me right now. I’m just trying to work out as hard as I can so I can be ready.”
Williams did interviews at the NBA combine, but like Irving did not take part in workouts — for what he views as a simple reason.
“I was the most efficient player in the nation,” he said. “I averaged 19 (points) and eight (rebounds) and shot 56 percent from three. There’s really nothing else to prove.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.