Assessing Emmitt Williams, Keldon Johnson, and P.J. Washington

February 13, 2019

by Alan Lu

I took the opportunity to watch LSU and Kentucky play in an SEC basketball game that featured numerous prospects that could end up being in the 2019 NBA Draft.  It was a very competitive, back and forth game that went all the way down to the wire, and Kavell Bigby-Williams ended up making the game-winning shot by scoring on a tip-in after getting an offensive rebound just before the buzzer sounded.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared on this day, as well as how their skills may translate to the NBA.

LSU’s 6-7 freshman forward, Emmitt Williams played very well to help get his team a narrow victory over Kentucky.  He excelled at scoring on hustle plays, and he also rebounded and defended well when he was on the court.  Williams made all of his shots that he took in this game, as he would often score on put backs, he scored on a roll to the rim in traffic, and he also would run the floor to get scores in transition.  He flew in to score on a tip slam once, and he also used a pump fake to score on a fast break another time.  Williams is a very athletic forward that did a tremendous job of finishing plays around the basket.

Plus, he also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  Williams would often collect boards on both ends of the floor, and he also did an excellent job of grabbing offensive rebounds, as he would tend to provide his team with second chance points afterwards on offense.  However, he was called for a push off once when going after a defensive rebound.  Also, Williams played fairly good defense.  He is a terrific shot blocker, as he possesses very good athleticism, timing, and instincts to block shots off of drives, and he swoop in to swat them ferociously in the process.  But sometimes, he can tend to commit fouls.  An opponent in the post on one play outmuscled him, and he also can struggle to guard opponents off the dribble on occasion.

In general, Emmitt Williams had a strong showing in his team’s victory over Kentucky, and he was an unsung hero for LSU in this game.  Williams is a very athletic, energetic forward that can make solid hustle plays on both ends of the floor, and he can make fascinating plays above the rim.  He is an intriguing prospect that can play multiple positions, and he could project to be a late first to an early second round prospect for the upcoming draft, as he could project to be a similar player to Brooklyn Nets’ forward, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the NBA.

Kentucky’s 6-6 freshman swingman, Keldon Johnson put forth a solid performance in his team’s narrow loss to LSU.  He made a variety of shots to help his team on offense, and he also passed and handled the ball well in this game.  Johnson excelled at driving the ball to the basket to garner scores.  He has a quick first step to the hoop, and he would tend to score on floaters off the dribble.  He also would use pivots and overhead ball fakes to get past his man, and he also would draw fouls by using aggressive moves past his defenders, but Johnson had a tendency to miss on long two-point shots as well as off of curl cuts.  He did make an open corner three once, and Johnson can make long-range jumpers when hoists them up from beyond the arc.

Also, Johnson displayed solid playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, as he can kick the ball out to shooters and push the pace to find them to notch assists.  He also handles the ball well, and can bring the ball up when necessary.  Additionally, he did a decent job of rebounding the basketball in this game, and Johnson would leap up to haul in defensive boards.  Defensively, Johnson looked to be fairly average.  On one play, Johnson was able to tie up an opponent on a drive to get a steal for his team, but sometimes he can be a bit late on his rotations, which can lead him to allow scores.  He also bit on a pump fake, and ended up getting beat off the dribble, which led his team to give up the basket.  In summary, Keldon Johnson played well in his team’s loss to LSU, and he is an athletic, energetic swingman that provided solid all-around skills in this game.  He is a talented player that can bring versatility to teams, and he could be a likely lottery pick, as he could end up being a solid starter in the NBA.

Kentucky’s 6-8 sophomore forward, P.J. Washington also had a good showing in his team’s loss to LSU.  He did a great job of scoring in the paint, and he also excelled as a rebounder when he was on the floor.  Washington did a good job of scoring in the post as well as off the dribble, as he can score on jump hooks, as well as off the dribble to get scores in the paint.  He showed a knack for finishing plays in the paint, and he also can get scores after getting offensive rebounds for his team, but sometimes, he would miss shots, as he would rush his shots in traffic on occasion.

He also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  He threw a really nice pass out of the post after being doubled to find an open man underneath the hoop to notch an assist due to possessing good court vision, and Washington did a good job of finding open shooters to set up scores for them.  He also rebounded the ball well, as he would grab tough rebounds in traffic on both ends of the floor due to possessing very good strength, ball location skills, and instincts, but he also had a tendency to commit over the back fouls, and he also committed a reach-in foul when going for an offensive board another time. 

Also, Washington played good defense.   He had a knack for contesting shots off of drives to force misses, and he also obtained a steal, but there was one play where he gave up too much space to his opponent, which led him to allow a pull-up three score to his man.  Overall, P.J. Washington played well in his team’s loss to LSU.  He is an athletic, combo forward that can make a variety of shots inside the paint, but he will still need to show that he can knock down shots from beyond the arc.  Still, he is a skilled basketball player that could excel on both ends of the floor, and he could end up being a mid to late first round pick on draft day.

LSU’s 6-10 freshman big man, Naz Reid had a fairly good showing in his team’s win over Kentucky.  He had his fair share of struggles as he tended to run into foul trouble and was a bit inconsistent with his jump shot, but Reid did a good job of making a variety of shots, especially from beyond the arc, and he also rebounded the ball well in this contest.  Reid did a very good job of knocking down threes to space the floor on offense.  Early on, he dribbled left and pulled up to make a deep three off the dribble.  Later in this game, he also made an open three off of a kick out.

Plus, he also showed off adequate low post scoring skills.  Reid was able to use a pivot move to score on a high-arcing jump hook.  Also, he excelled at scoring on quick put backs after getting offensive rebounds.  However, he struggled to score on half-court drives, as sometimes he would have trouble trying to score off the dribble in traffic.  Though he didn’t look to pass the ball often, Reid can pass out of the post to occasionally find the open man on offense.  However, he threw a pass that sailed out of bounds due to miscommunication, and he did not collect an assist in this match.

He also rebounded the ball well.  Reid would often leap up to get offensive boards, and he also was able to haul in his fair share of defensive rebounds in addition.  He did commit a foul on a put back once, as he did not block out his man that time.  Defensively, he looked to be about average at best.  Early on, Reid was able to get a steal, and he even appeared to make an impressive chase down block in transition before being whistled for the foul.  On the downside, he generally had trouble defending drives, as he would tend to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Naz Reid had a solid, albeit unspectacular game in his team’s win over Kentucky, and he is a skilled big man that can help his team flourish on offense as well as on the boards.  He will need to improve his position defense, but he could end up being selected by an NBA team in the late first to the second round range on draft day.

LSU’s sophomore point guard, Tremont Waters had an okay game in his team’s win over Kentucky, but he played better towards the end.  He initially struggled with his jump shot, and he had trouble consistently knocking those down, but he would use his speed to consistently get to the free throw line by driving hard to the rim, and he also managed to score on an acrobatic reverse layup off of a speedy baseline drive another time.

He also displayed solid playmaking skills.  Waters can kick the ball out to shooters, and he also threw an accurate lob pass to a cutter to notch assists.  He generally threw solid interior passes, but sometimes, he would throw loopy, inaccurate passes that would go astray.  Also, Waters played good defense.  He would often poke balls away to get steals, and he also intercepted a pass to collect another.  He did once allow an opponent to score on an open three, but still, Waters is a pesky defender that can make it difficult for his opponents to dribble or to get their passes through due to providing constant ball pressure.

All in all, Waters had a decent performance as he played well towards the end, and he is a quick, agile playmaker that also defends well despite possessing less than ideal size to play the point.  He made big plays when his team needed him the most, and he has been having a very good sophomore season.  Right now, he could be a good pick for a team in the second round range of the upcoming draft, as he could end up being a solid role player in the NBA.

Other Notes:

Kentucky’s senior forward, Reid Travis had a decent showing in his team’s loss to LSU.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, as he was able to make an open three, he would draw free throws after getting offensive boards, and he also would score on hustle plays.  Travis was able to score on a dunk after being left open underneath the hoop, and he also caught a lob pass to score on an alley-oop layup in transition.  However, he struggled more when posting up, as he tended to miss shots after setting up on the block.

Defensively, he looked to be about average at best.  Travis can catch tipped passes to help his team get steals, but he tended to commit fouls in the paint, as he had trouble defending his man or making timely rotations in this game.  Right now, he may be a borderline second round prospect.  He is a skilled big man that can score in a variety of ways, but he is undersized to play inside, and has less than ideal speed or quickness for an interior player.  In a best case scenario, if he makes his way into the NBA, Travis could end up being like a poor man’s version of Anthony Tolliver in the league.

LSU’s 6-11 senior center, Kavell Bigby-Williams quietly played well in his team’s win over LSU.  He excelled at scoring on hustle plays, he was able to draw free throws on a roll to the rim, and he scored on the game-winning tip-in off of an offensive rebound to score the game winner.  He didn’t take many shots, but he was very efficient with the ones he took on the floor.  He also was able to get his fair share of boards in this game.  Also, Bigby-Williams played solid defense.  He was able to block shots in the paint to force misses, and he will challenge shots in the post.  But sometimes he can struggle to stay in front his man when guarding out on the perimeter, which can lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Kavell Bigby-Williams had a solid performance to help get his team the victory.  He didn’t really stand out from a box score perspective, but he is a high-motor player that is committed to doing the little things to aid his team on both ends of the court.  He could be a likely candidate to end up on an NBA team’s summer league roster, and he is an athletic, energetic big man that could potentially make an NBA team’s roster sometime in the future.

Tyler Herro had his ups and downs, but he wasn’t very consistent in his play during his team’s loss to LSU.  He had trouble making jumpers consistently, but he also showed that he can score in transition, off curl cuts, and he can occasionally knock down jump shots, as he excelled at making corner threes.  Herro also passed the ball well, and against LSU, he would throw accurate interior passes to set up scores for his teammates.  He also showed off decent defensive skills.  Herro was able to block a shot off of a drive, and he will play passing lanes, as he can intercept balls to get steals.  Plus, he will contest threes to force misses, but sometimes, he would sag too far off his man, which would allow opponents to score on three-point shots.  He also had a tendency to be too aggressive when defending opposing ball handlers, as he would commit fouls and bite on pump fakes.

Overall, Tyler Herro had some good moments in this game, but he wasn’t able to put his skills all together to have a great showing on this day.   He tended to miss too often on mid-range jumpers as well as on floaters off the dribble, but he can make threes, as well as provide his team with solid passing and defense when he is focused.  Right now, he may be a second round prospect, but if things go his way, he could end up being an effective role player in the NBA.

Immanuel Quickley played solid defense in the first half on Tremont Waters, as he would actively challenge shots using his length and quickness to force misses.  He didn’t play as much in the second half, and he didn’t do anything that was too noteworthy on offense, however.  Quickley didn’t shoot the ball well, and committed too many turnovers, but he generally did a good job on the defensive end.  Right now, he may be a borderline second round candidate, but if he makes his way into the NBA, he could perhaps end up being like a Carlos Arroyo type of player in the league.

Ashton Hagans did not have a great game in his team’s loss to LSU.  He did score on a smooth left handed drive off the glass, and he also made a long two, but Hagans had trouble consistently scoring when he would take shots, and he was also too passive on the offensive end.  He didn’t look to assert himself enough as a scorer or playmaker, but he can kick the ball out to shooters to set up scoring chances for his teammates. 

Defensively, Hagans may need to improve on this end, as he can be too unfocused on that side of the floor.  He was able to contest jumpers to force some misses, but he had a tendency to commit reach-in fouls, as he can be quite undisciplined on this side of the ball.  He had trouble guarding Waters as he would have trouble staying in front of him, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  Another time, Hagans was late to rotate back to his man, which led him to allow an opponent to score on a corner three.

Overall, Ashton Hagans is a quick, agile point guard that has some solid physical tools, but he didn’t really show much overall in terms of shot making, decision making, or defensive skills against LSU.  He may be still rather unpolished as an overall player, and he may need to stay in school to hone his skills.  If he does end up in the 2019 draft, he could be a potential second round pick, as NBA teams may enamored with his perceived upside, and Hagans could end up being a backup point guard in a similar mold to Memphis Grizzlies’ current rookie point guard, Jevon Carter.  If Hagans does end up getting drafted by an NBA team, that team must be patient in developing Hagans’ skills and work with him in order to help him realize his full potential at the next level.