Posted: 12:00 p.m. Thursday, April 11, 2013
By Matt Brown
I think I speak for most Buckeye fans when I say that Amir Williams' season was wildly frustrating. I can't remember being more exasperated at a player since BJ Mullens, and I probably swore so much at my laptop that my wife thought his name was actually "DAMMIT AMIR". Let's dig into the nitty gritty to see what went well, what went poorly, and what caused so much of our hair to prematurely turn gray.
3.5 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.4 BLK, 16.5 Minutes, .556 FG%, .557% FT%
It's true that Williams is still young, and that big men often mature and grow at a slower rate than guards, but I think a lot of fans would have liked Amir to have produced at a level to let him stay on the court more than 16 minutes a night.
Best Games: Williams only hit the double digit mark in scoring OR rebounding twice all season. His best all around game was probably the 2/14 69-59 win over a highly undersized Northwestern squad, where Amir bullied his way towards a season high 10 points, 8 boards and a steal in 22 minutes. His presence was usually most felt when he was swatting shots. He had 4 blocks and 9 points in 36 minutes in a 76-74 OT loss at Michigan, and had another 4 swats against Nebraska to go with 8 points and 7 boards. He hit a season high 6 blocks against Iowa, but that mark is sullied somewhat by his inability to grab a single rebound in that game.
Worst Games: The excellent NBA blog Basketbawful popularized a term for Big Man ineptitude (although it can be traced to now Grantland scribe Zach Lowe), the Voskuhl, named after former UCONN stiff Jake Voskuhl. When a player's turnovers + fouls exceed his combined points and rebounds, he has committed a Voskuhl. Amir Williams was great at this.
Perhaps the best statline came from the Madtown Massacre. In a paltry 9 minutes, Amir missed a shot and failed to collect a single rebound, block, steal or assist. He DID however, manage to pick up 4 fouls. In Big Ten play, Amir either tied or achieved a Voskuhl 7 times, and was awfully close to more.
The Skinny: Let's be fair here, there are things that Amir actually does well. There is no denying that he is already a very good shotblocker, and has the potential to be an excellent shot blocker. He has great size and has clearly shown the effort to make his ball-swatting skills his calling card. If is able to play around 20 minutes a game, there is no reason Amir can't block 2 shots a game.
Amir also does a pretty good job of getting to the free throw line, given his relatively low minutes played and very low offensive usage rate. If he works at his free throw shooting, this could also be a formidable weapon against squads with less frontcourt depth.
The problem is, Amir struggled with virtually everything else. He didn't have the strength or the positioning to prevent himself from being backed down, and guards could still drive around him to the to the basket. His footwork, positioning and elevation for rebounds was terrible, allowing smaller players, even guards, to consistently beat him on the glass.
It would be charitable to say that Williams struggled on offense as well. Amir had problems catching the ball in the post, and has almost moves or inside finishing ability once he gets there. He got to the free throw line in nearly every game he played, but struggled to shoot effectively from the stripe. He also sometimes struggled with focus when the offense shifted away from him for long stretches. Certainly, there are lots of "Room for Improvements" on his report card.
Prognosis: I'm not ready to completely give up on Amir Williams yet, partly because he was so highly regarded coming out of high school for a reason, partly because Thad Matta has a strong record in big man development, and partly because Ohio State will badly need an improved Amir next season. Lots of commentators are going to write about how hard it will be for the Buckeyes to replace Deshaun Thomas' scoring, but rebounding and frontcourt depth are even bigger worries for next year's Buckeye squad.
The good news is that Ohio State doesn't need Amir to learn to do anything drastic, He doesn't need to learn to launch 15 footers, or be the focus point of the offense. Amir simply needs to run the floor, finish at the line, stay focused, and rebound the hell out of the ball, like a 6-11 center should over 6-6 college forwards. If Williams can play around 20 min a night and average 5 points and 6.5 rebounds, without giving up too many boneheaded plays, the Bucks will be in great shape. Williams still has the talent to produce at a high level. The only question is if he's willing to do the little things. If he does, great things will happen.