CHICAGO – The impressive one-season jump from a player projected to be drafted late in the first round to a college star likely to go second overall on June 23 reached new, and interesting, heights Thursday when Derrick Williams called himself the most NBA-ready player available and made himself a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year.
“That’s the plan,” Williams told a group of reporters in a media session as part of the annual pre-draft combine here. “That’s the first step. I’m not cocky or anything. But that’s why I picked the agency I chose and that’s the main focus right now – Rookie of the Year.”
Among the other apparent plans: Having people regard him as a small forward who can play power forward, not a combo forward in a designation that some would could consider a sign of versatility but Williams may read as the term of a front-court tweener. That it would be more than semantics is understandable as some teams wonder if he is heading to the pros as a player without a position, not strong enough to muscle around at power forward and not quick enough to keep up at small forward.
None of that stopped executives and scouts from raving about his climb up the draft board as an Arizona sophomore, impressed by the way he sharpened his game and re-shaped his body with improved conditioning. By the time the largest gathering of NBA teams and draft prospects descended here for meetings, physicals and limited basketball drills, Williams was the consensus second-best player available, after Duke point guard Kyrie Irving.
“I think that I am the most NBA-ready guy that can step in and be an immediate impact,” Williams said.
And as to whether he should go No. 1 to the Cavaliers or, if Cleveland selects Irving, No. 2 to the Timberwolves?
“It really doesn’t matter too much to me,” Williams said. “Whoever does choose me is making the right choice. Whoever doesn’t choose me, I’m just going to try and get back at them and just going to (try to) know why they didn’t choose me.”
Shy he is not.