To quote Kevin Costner (well, really Winston Churchill, but let's just roll with it) from the film JFK, Amir Williams is a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma. There simply has to be more to Williams' game than Ohio State fans have seen in his first two seasons on campus. From seemingly perpetual foul trouble to problems with actions as simple as catching the basketball, the glimpses of actual basketball skill that made him a McDonald's All-American in high school have been few and far between.
Having said that, his size and athleticism are evident every time he steps on the floor. He possess something nearing a 7'2" wingspan, which makes him extremely difficult to shoot over in the paint. Williams wouldn't be the first big man to put together coordination as an upperclassman, and I'm cautiously optimistic that he can become a useful starter on a team with high aspirations this season.
Last Season Stats (sophomore): 3.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks in 16.5 minutes per game
A Look Back:
Williams played in every game last season, but was largely ineffective outside of being a large person who stood in the paint on defense and blocked occasional shots that came his way. On offense, he was something of black hole that struggled to receive passes and labored even further to pass the ball out of the post. He was an efficient finisher when he got good looks at the rim (55.6% field goal percentage); however, he was pretty much resigned to that area, as 60 of his 72 field goal attempts were at the rim according to hoop-math.com. It's also worth mentioning that Williams really struggled with foul trouble against teams that had any sort of realistic skill, accruing four fouls in under 20 minutes of play against Kansas, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Minnesota last season.
Outlook for 2013-14:
This is the most important season of Williams' basketball playing career, and it may not be unfair to say that he is the Buckeyes' most pivotal player this season. LaQuinton Ross, Sam Thompson, and Aaron Craft are going to produce, and even if they don't there are options behind them to potentially help out. However, there is no reasonable backup option at center this season (sorry, Trey). He has the position entirely to himself now, and will be counted on to play major minutes for the Buckeyes this season. While Coach Matta has never been one to shy away from playing small lineups without a traditional big man, it is assumed that Williams will be counted on to take on more minutes.
I will continue to have faith in Williams until he proves to me that it is fruitless. If his energy level can improve and his effort level increase, then the Buckeyes will have a useful player. One place I want the Buckeyes to utilize him more is in pick-and-roll sets, where the team can take advantage of his huge base and athletic ability in order to get him close to the bucket, a la the way Tyson Chandler is used in the NBA. Yeah, that would require that his hands improve in order for him to consistently catch the ball high and put it up quickly, but that's a necessary thing that needs to happen anyway. With an improvement in his hands, Williams would have everything that someone could possibly want in a deadly pick-and-roll athlete; the Bucks just need to use him that way. After all, this could be his and Shannon Scott's team next year (*shudders*).
The defensive end is where Williams will make his mark on this team, though. He needs to find a way to step up against bigs like Mitch McGary, Adreian Payne, A.J. Hammons, and Noah Vonleh, using his immense athleticism and length to frustrate them on that end. The Big Ten is a big conference this year, with quite a few legitimate center/power forwards who can terrorize opponents. Williams must become a better defender in the post, and needs to learn the Roy Hibbert-ian principle of verticality in order to stop fouling on help situations. I have faith in Matta teaching him strong defensive principles; the biggest thing is simply applying them.
Best Case Scenario:
Williams gives the Buckeyes 26 minutes per game, averaging nine points, seven rebounds, and two blocks per game. By the end of the year, he reestablishes himself as a potential second-round NBA draft pick as a defensive presence and pick-and-roll player.
Worst Case Scenario:
No, really. The Buckeyes really need Williams to step up in order to match-up with the size in the Big Ten this season. Otherwise, Ross will be forced to guard guys like McGary and get eaten alive in the paint. If Williams can't provide the big body inside, expect the Buckeyes to try to run a lot and play constant up-tempo basketball.
Help us Amir-Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope (to have anyone that weighs more than 200 pounds on the court).