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Know The Prospect : Nigel Williams-Goss

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Should the Knicks go Zag in the second round?

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-South Carolina vs Gonzaga Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Sounding more like the Chancellor of a high-brow British University than anything, there is a fitting sophistication and pensive nature to Nigel Williams-Goss’ game. The 6’4” guard helped lead his team to the National Championship game this past season at Gonzaga. Sure, Williams-Goss is a high IQ player, but he’s not shown that he’s Tim-Duncan-smart. He’s been knocked for his perceived lack of athleticism, too, but he’s not Jerome James out there.

NWG is most effective when he plays at a dialed-down, deliberate pace. While he certainly has a few tricks in his repertoire to score in isolation, there’s a clear comfort zone for Williams-Goss on the offensive end where he’s much more potent. Below, Gonzaga will run an action called “Thru-Up.” In this sequence, NWG is unable to break down the defense, and instead swings the ball back (it leads to an eventual basket, not shown).

In the next clip, Gonzaga runs their same “Thru-up” action out of the half-court, but this time, Williams-Goss rejects the screen and attempts to attack the rim, only to get trapped and stripped of the ball.

At the next level, Williams-Goss can still be effective in isolation to some degree. There is a serious shiftiness to his game that is underrated, and more, his first step is extremely quick, something that’s seldom mentioned when critiquing his “average” athleticism.

About that athleticism, there’s fact behind that commentary. Vertically, NWG didn’t post special combine measurements, leaping a max jump of 34.5” (Not bad, but no big deal). Horizontally, Williams-Goss measured the best of the field, completing the lane agility drill in 10.42 seconds, showcasing his lateral speed around the court. The bad news is, once you look at lane agility results from past years and observe who was much slower/faster, it becomes obvious that specific measurement means almost nothing. As mentioned earlier, it’s helpful to NWG’s draft stock that he’s not sluggish in terms of ability, he just doesn’t use that speed on the court. When rushed, he’s considerably less effective offensively.

The first two seasons of his college career took place at Washington, where he mostly played point guard. In that role, Williams-Goss averaged almost three turnovers per game. At Gonzaga, he was used much more like mid-2000’s Manu Ginobli, playing primarily off-ball, but trusted late in games to run the offense and create if need-be. Below, NWG’s basic stats from his final college season can be seen.

Credit: Draftexpress.com

Still, his passing often lacks zip and he could be categorized as loose with the ball at times. While I do see a high IQ player in Williams-Goss, I’m concerned with the speed of the NBA game. Williams-Goss makes the right play most times, but seems like he usually needs an extra millisecond to measure the risk, time that’s rarely allotted at the next level.

The theme continues when evaluating NWG’s jumper. I’m not too worried about his ability to stroke it as a pro, but of course he’s better with a little more time. I believe his jump shot could translate to a viable weapon at the next level and I’d give him the benefit here because of his growing percentages from deep, his range, and his impressive free-throw percentages. NWG’s mid-range shooting is great, for what that’s worth, and mechanically, it all passes the eye test (most times).

One other helpful tool NWG possesses is an effective floater. Williams-Goss will mix it up from about 10 feet away with one-handed floaters and other tricks to help him get shots to the rim.

It’s helpful for Williams-Goss to explore options in the paint, because he’s struggled at the rim at times. Far preferring to pull it back and survey, NWG doesn’t often push the issue in transition as a ball-handler. He has a good eye for pushing the ball as a passer, but his finishing should be a point of emphasis for him going forward.

Again, as a passer, his vision and anticipation are tools to his benefit. I really enjoyed watching this play develop in transition as NWG decides to pass to a cutting Karnowski before Karnowski is even open.

With a 6’7.25” wingspan, a 10.42 second shuttle run, and an apparent penchant for ball-denial, Williams-Goss can certainly sell himself as a defensive presence to NBA teams. NWG had the best defensive rating of all the guards on Gonzaga and almost doubled the next closest teammate in steals, but in a league so focused on guarding the pick-and-roll and recovering in transition, NWG would have some explaining to do based on some game film.

Speaking of pick-and-roll, Nigel Williams-Goss didn’t play as much PG at Gonzaga compared to his time at Washington, yet he did seem to develop a bit of chemistry with potential lottery pick and Gonzaga teammate, Zach Collins.

While Williams-Goss has shown good decision-making skills and vision, will he be able to keep the turnovers down and still be effective at an NBA pace? If not, can he score enough as an off-ball guard and defend the wings of the NBA? I would presume his absolute best-case scenario is a Matthew Dellavedova or Jordan Crawford type of player.

From a Knicks perspective, I see very little incentive to draft NWG, as he doesn’t seem to give you too much more than Baker or Randle, who are both high IQ players that love to defend at the PG position. As much as I enjoyed Williams-Goss’ work at Gonzaga, when evaluating his NBA impact, I would be skeptical. Being a high-character player will help NWG too, and maybe the Knicks would deem him a helpful addition in that regard, especially into a locker room and organization that has struggled with dysfunction, but considering who’s making the decisions, I’m not sure how much that’s prioritized. Nigel Williams-Goss was a great college player and I hope for his sake his best basketball is ahead of him, not behind him.