Evaluating Ziaire Williams, Chris Duarte, and Eugene Omoruyi

January 3rd, 2021

By Alan Lu

There were a lot of interesting college basketball games that I could’ve chosen to watch on January 2nd.  Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State played against Terrence Shannon Jr. and TCU, Luka Garza and Iowa played against Ron Harper Jr. and Rutgers, Texas played against Kansas early in the morning, and Oklahoma State’s OT thriller and win over TCU was probably as good of a college basketball game as one could expect that day, and it was reported that Oklahoma State won even when Cade Cunningham, a projected top 3 pick for the 2021 draft, fouled out.

The only thing is though, is that I didn’t watch any of those games.  Instead, I chose to watch Ziaire Williams and Stanford play in a Pac-12 basketball game against Oregon.  Last time I had watched Ziaire Williams, he was playing well at the Maui Invitational, but he’s played considerably worse after the first two games of the season.  I wanted to see what exactly was going wrong with his approach. 

I also wanted to take the time to watch Oregon this year.  Even though their top prospect Will Richardson wouldn’t be playing, because they have churned out NBA players on a yearly basis now, with Dillon Brooks, Chris Boucher, Bol Bol, and Payton Pritchard all being in the NBA and had played for Oregon all within the past 5 years, so I figured it was time to see more Oregon games.  Ziaire Williams did not get off to a good start, and while he did make some good plays at times, he didn’t quite play well overall, but Oregon played well as they won by 17.  Here are my thoughts on this game, as well as how Ziaire Williams and other prospects may currently stack up as prospects for the NBA.

Stanford’s freshman forward, Ziaire Williams’ shooting struggles continue to surmount, as he made just 3 of 12 field goals, and just 1 of 5 three-point shots, and he scored 10 points in his team’s loss to Oregon.
(Photo:
Soobum Im/USA Today Sports, via Reuters)

After having watched Stanford’s first 2 games of the Maui Invitational, I felt confident that Ziaire Williams would be a surefire pick in the lottery.  He had scored 19 points, made 3 threes, and grabbed 8 rebounds in an impressive fashion in a season opening win over Alabama, and I thought he more than held his own against North Carolina.  I also thought he defended very well, on top of showing strong shooting and athletic abilities in those games.  

I didn’t think I needed to watch him play another time against Indiana, believing that he would play well in that game, too.  Unfortunately, it looks like I made a snap judgment in a long season of basketball, and right now, Williams looks nowhere like the player I thought he was that had just played the Alabama game.

Since the first two games of the season, Williams’ shooting percentages have tumbled greatly, as his decline and descent as a prospect seemed to start with his 1 for 10 shooting woes in his team’s loss to Indiana.  I was ready to watch him play against Evan Mobley and USC that was primed for a mid-December game, but it was cancelled due to COVID reasons.  Still, I felt determined to watch him play again, because I wanted to know what’s going wrong with his approach, especially as his shooting percentages have continued to crater this season.

In this game, Ziaire Williams started off ready to take a lot of jumpers, and he had several solid baskets, and he made some solid plays as a facilitator and defender at times, but he took too many bad shots, committed too many turnovers, and made too many mistakes defensively.  He seems to be too hyper as a player, and he can never seem to channel his aggressiveness into a positive.  In this game against Oregon, he looked to be always trying to force the issue, but sometimes in a manner that seemed to be to the detriment of his team.

Shot selection seems to be a big issue for him right now.  He’s an especially frustrating player to watch, because he’ll display vast athletic tools, but he doesn’t seem to know how to fully use them on offense. He tended to settle for a lot of contested pull-up jumpers, and while he did pull up to make a long two-pointer early, and he also made a corner three off the catch late, Williams would be too quick to hoist up contested mid-range shots, as well as tough pull-up threes from way out.  Other times, he would be handed shots very late in the shot clock, and he would end up missing on mid-range jumpers as a result.  While Williams’ late game corner three looked to be a revelation, that was his only made three-pointer out of five tries from beyond the arc, and he took far too many rushed, contested jumpers rather than take open or controlled jump shots.

He also tended to struggle to score off of drives to the hoop, as he would tend to shy away from contact, but he did score on a strong, controlled layup on a drive in transition midway through this match.  He did run the floor to get the ball on the break and he had a wide-open shot to score from close range, but Williams ended up missing by trying to dunk so hard, that instead of making the shot, it sent the ball careening hard off the rim instead.

He also didn’t look to move off the ball very often, but the few times he would look to cut to the hoop, his teammates wouldn’t look to get him the basketball near the hoop. Williams showed fairly average playmaking skills in this game.  He is an unselfish player that an pass and handle the basketball, and he can throw solid passes off the dribble and in transition to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  However, when faced heavy ball pressure, he would tend to throw hasty passes that would end up getting intercepted. Williams would handle the ball quite often, but he seemed to not really have a plan when he would do so, which would lead him to be a ball-stopper at times on offense.

Williams did do an adequate job of rebounding the basketball, and he would chase down balls to try to help his team get boards on both ends of the floor.  He showed a very good motor to go for rebounds, and he also was able to draw free throws when diving for a loose ball off of an offensive rebound.

Defensively, Williams looked to be above average.  Williams is a long, athletic defender that can cover plenty of ground, and his gambling tendencies have their strengths and weaknesses.  For the positives, he was able to get his hands on passes to get steals and deflections for his team, and he does a good job of using his length, athleticism, and instincts to pick off his opponents’ passes.  He also was able to alter a shot around the basket, and he also will look to contest jump shots, and he can force misses when he’s in position.

However, he tends to gamble a lot on the defensive end, and perhaps too much so.  He’ll tend to sag and over-help in the paint too often, which would lead him to be late on his rotations, and to bite wildly on ball fakes on close outs, as this would allow opponents to score on corner threes.  He would also over-pursue opposing ball handlers and get beat off the dribble, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Ziaire Williams seems to have regressed significantly as a prospect, and he doesn’t look anywhere ready for the NBA right now, let alone be projected as a lottery pick, which considering his abysmal shooting percentages, that draft stock just looks rather absurd right now. 

There are plenty of reasons that could point to Williams’ struggles in college basketball right now.  It may be his ultra-hyper aggressive mentality that’s making him a worse offensive player, as he’s taking a lot of rushed, contested shots. It even could be Sierra Canyon’s high school powerhouse name that may have brought a lot of perhaps unjustified hype to his draft stock, as his high school teammate, B.J. Boston also has not shot the ball well at all either, and was benched late in the game, which paved the way for Dontaie Allen’s seven three-pointers that he made in Kentucky’s double-overtime win over Mississippi State.  It even could be that Williams may feel that he has to live up to his strong performances in his first 2 games at the Maui Invitational, with Williams perhaps trying to play hero-ball in a vain effort to try to keep his draft stock.

The fact is though, Williams simply is not playing well at all right now.  In his first 8 games of the season, Williams has made just 34% from the field, and 28% of his three-point shots, and he’s only made 1.01 points per shot.  After starting out having made 50% from the field and 56% of his threes in his first two games to average 14.5 points per game and a respectable 1.21 points per shot, Williams has since made just 29% from the field and just 17% of his threes, and he’s averaged a meager 0.94 points per shot in his last 6 games, which includes this game against Oregon.

After the first two games of the season against Alabama and North Carolina, draft analysts seemed all but ready to crown him as a future NBA All-Star, but that was very early in the season.  After more games have come in, the truth is, right now, he’s really struggling in college basketball, and he’s just not ready to play in the NBA yet.  Right now, Williams is a developmental prospect that is looking more like a second round project than a player that should be rated in the lottery, and he probably needs to have his role simplified rather than take on so much volume on offense.  If Ziaire Williams can end up with an NBA team that has a sound infrastructure in place such as Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs or maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a favorable scenario, Williams could surprise and develop into a solid role player similar to long-time NBA veteran forward, Trevor Ariza in the association.

Oregon’s 6-6 senior guard, Chris Duarte played very well as he scored 23 points in his team’s win over Stanford, and he would be a solid pick for an NBA team, especially in the second round range of the 2021 draft.
(Photo:
Andy Nelson/Associated Press, via Yahoo Sports)

Oregon’s 6-6 senior guard, Chris Duarte had a strong all-around game, as he scored 23 points, made 4 threes, and had 6 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 blocks to lead Oregon to a double-digit victory over Stanford.  He looked to be the best and most polished prospect in this game, and he did pretty much everything well against Stanford.

Duarte shot the ball well, especially late in this game.  He excelled at knocking down corner threes to provide floor spacing for his team, and he also was able to make a step back three from way out. He also did a fairly good job of scoring off the dribble.  Duarte would drive in to score on smooth, graceful layups at the rim, and sometimes he would coast to coast to score in transition.  Duarte also was able to score on a cut to the hoop, while drawing an extra free throw afterwards.  Sometimes, he would miss on spot-up threes or mid-range jumpers, but Duarte generally excelled as a shooter and scorer in this game.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  Duarte wasn’t able to pick up an assist in this game, but he can throw interior passes, and he did not commit a single turnover on offense. Duarte also did a satisfactory job of rebounding the basketball, as he would leap up to get defensive rebounds, and he would tend to push the ball up the court afterwards.  He did end up going over the back to commit a foul when going for an offensive rebound once.

Also, he played very good defense in this game.  Duarte would often jump passes to get steals and deflections, and he also would rotate to block shots off of drives, as he even was able to make an impressive chase down block from behind.  However, there was one play where he over-helped in the paint, as he was late to rotate, and allowed his man to score on a corner three.

Overall, Chris Duarte played very well in his team’s win over Stanford, and he’s been having a solid season overall.  While he doesn’t possess overwhelming athletic gifts, Duarte is a smart, skilled basketball player that is also an above average athlete, and his versatile skill set could allow him to thrive as a role player in the NBA.

Oregon’s redshirt senior forward, Eugene Omoruyi played well in his team’s win over Stanford, especially in the second half, as he scored 15 points, and dished out 5 assists to help his team get the victory.
(Photo:
Andy Nelson/Associated Press, via Oregon Live)

Oregon’s 6-6 redshirt senior forward, Eugene Omoruyi had a solid showing in his team’s win over Stanford.  He is a strong, physical player that showed off versatile scoring skills, and he showed off an impressive outside shot to help lift his team to a victory.

Omoruyi shot the ball very well, as he especially excelled at knocking down spot-up threes off the catch, and he also has a lot of range on his shot, as he made a couple of them from way out. He also did a decent job of scoring off the dribble.  He would go strong to his left to score a couple of times, and he also used a pump fake and drove in to score on a running hook shot another time.  He also is an aggressive player that can draw fouls upon his defenders to get to the free throw line.  Sometimes though, he would take tough, off-balanced shots that would lead to misses.

He also exhibited adequate playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that can pass off the dribble and out of the post, and he would tend to find open shooters to set up scores for them.  Sometimes though, he would try to force the issue a bit too much, which would lead him to commit ball-handling turnovers due to recklessness.  He also threw a hasty pass off the dribble that ended up getting intercepted another time.

Also, Omoruyi was able to get his fair share of boards in this game, as he would able to get rebounds on both sides of the ball.  He looked to be about average defensively against Stanford.  He was able to rotate to poke a ball away to nearly get a steal, and he also deflected a pass out of bounds another time.  He also can contest shots to force some misses when he’s in position to do so.  However, he tended to struggle to defend quicker players out on the perimeter.  He would sag too far off of shooters, which would lead him to allow them to score on jumpers.  He also fell on a drive when trying to defend a spin move, which led him to commit a foul and allow a score that time.

Overall, Omoruyi played well in this game, as he scored 15 points, and notched 5 assists, and 4 rebounds in his team’s win over Stanford.  While he may not possess elite physical tools, he is a strong, mobile forward that plays bigger than his listed height, and he is a second round prospect that could project into a 3 and D role in the NBA.

Oregon’s 6-6 senior swingman, L.J. Figueroa had a decent showing in his team’s win over Stanford.  He was able to score 13 points, and he also grabbed 12 rebounds in this game, and while he didn’t quite shoot efficiently, he had the dunk of the night, and he also made some solid defensive plays. Figueroa had the best play of the game, as he raced in after his own missed three-point shot to grab an offensive rebound, and he then scored on a very athletic tip slam afterwards.

Plus, he also was able to knock down some open jump shots, and he also was able to score on a couple of floaters off of drives to the basket.  Figueroa struggled to make threes consistently, and he would sometimes miss on tough, contested shots in the lane, but he was able to make a really impressive slam dunk by running all the way from the three-point line to score on a tip slam after having leapt up to grab the offensive rebound.

He also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Figueroa can throw solid passes off the dribble, and he was able to drive in and find a cutter to set up a scoring chance for his teammate.  He did commit one turnover, as he was called for traveling when handling the ball once. He also did a tremendous job of rebounding the basketball, and he excelled at hauling in many boards on both ends of the court.

Also, Figueroa played satisfactory defense in this game.  He was able to rotate to block a shot off of a drive, and he also was able to get his hands on passes to get his team some steals in this game as well.  However, sometimes he would struggle to defend opponents off the dribble, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, L.J. Figueroa is an athletic, high-motor forward that can make energetic plays to help his team on both ends of the court.  He will need to improve his jump shot and on-ball defense, but his ability to make plays on both ends of the court could enable him to compete for a roster spot in the NBA next season.

Stanford’s senior big man, Oscar da Silva had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Oregon.  He scored efficiently within limited touches on offense, but he also struggled defensively at times in this game. Da Silva showed a solid ability to score off the dribble.  He was able to drive hard to the hoop, as he used a spin move to score on a layup while getting an extra free throw for his team.  He also showed a knack for scoring on floaters.  However, sometimes he would drive in a bit too wildly, which would lead him to miss shots around the basket.

He displayed fairly average playmaking skills in this game.  Da Silva was able to get the ball to his teammate to set up a score for him.  He did commit one turnover, as he was called for a clear out when driving to the hoop, which led him to commit an offensive foul and a turnover. Also, he was able to get his fair share of boards to help his team get defensive rebounds.

He also struggled defensively.  For a positive, he was able to contest a shot off of a drive to force a miss.  However, he tended to struggle to defend quicker opponents off the dribble, and he would tend to be late on his rotations, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Da Silva’s performance was a mixed bag in his team’s loss to Oregon.  He was efficient as a scorer by looking to score off the dribble, but he also didn’t grab as many rebounds as he should have, and he struggled defensively in this game.  He also missed on his only three-point attempt from beyond the arc.  Right now, Da Silva will need to improve his outside shot and defense, but he is an agile, skilled big man that projects to be a borderline second round candidate for the 2021 draft, as his offensive skills could enable him to compete for a roster spot in the NBA next season.

Stanford’s 6-6 junior swingman, Bryce Wills had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Oregon.  He made solid plays on both ends of the floor, and he managed to score 12 points, and he also dished out 6 assists in this game. Wills did a decent job of scoring off the dribble.  He is a quick guard that can consistently get into the lane, and he would tend to score on layups and floaters, and he can use subtly dribble moves to get past his man.  However, sometimes he would tend to rush his shots, which would lead them to get blocked.  He didn’t take many jumpers outside of the paint, but he missed on a spot-up three on his lone three-point attempt from beyond the arc.

He also displayed fairly good playmaking skills.  Wills is an unselfish player that generally passes the ball well off the dribble, and he can consistently find the open man to set up scores for them.  However, he did commit a few turnovers, as he can be prone to committing ball-handling turnovers at times due to carelessness.

He also was able to collect his fair share of boards to help his team get some defensive rebounds.  However, he would sometimes not quite be in position to get rebounds and then would be over-aggressive in his pursuit to get them, which would lead him to commit fouls on put backs.

Also, Wills played fairly good defense.  He did a good job of jumping passes to get steals and deflections, and he also would block and alter shots inside to force misses due to possessing solid athleticism and timing.  However, sometimes he would struggle to defend opponents out on the perimeter.  Sometimes he would sag too far off of shooters, other times he would get beat off the dribble, which would cause him to allow scores to the opposition.

Overall, Bryce Wills did a fairly good job of scoring, passing, and defending in this game, but he will need to improve his outside shot, and he will need to work on cutting down on his turnovers on offense.  Right now, Wills has been one of the more productive players on Stanford’s team.  He hasn’t drawn much draft buzz, but he could project into a defensive specialist role if he makes it to the NBA someday.

Oregon’s junior swingman, Eric Williams Jr. also put forth a fairly good performance in his team’s win over Stanford.  Williams was able to make some solid plays on both ends of the court, and he was able to make some timely threes, as well as help his team get stops on the defensive end.

Williams did a good job of knocking down open threes to space the floor for his team.  He was effective as a spot-up shooter from beyond the arc, and he also used a pump fake and a side step move to his right to make a three from the corner. He was able to score off the dribble another time, but he generally missed off of cuts or on shots inside the arc, and Williams had trouble finishing plays in traffic in this game.

He also was a bit turnover prone, and sometimes he would throw hasty passes that would get intercepted.  Williams did a good job of rebounding the basketball, and he was quite active at crashing the glass to help his team get rebounds.

Plus, he also defended well.  Williams was able to rotate to block a shot off of a drive due to possessing good timing.  He also was able to pounce upon a loose ball lost by an opposing ball handler, and he also intercepted a pass to get steals for his team.  Sometimes though, he would occasionally struggle to defend opponents off the dribble, and there was one play where he fouled an opponent on a pull-up, mid-range shot.

Overall, Eric Williams played fairly well, as he was able to knock down threes, grab rebounds, and he was active as a help defender in his team’s win over Stanford.  He’ll need to make more shots consistently from inside the arc, and he will need to improve his playmaking skills, but he is a fairly athletic, skilled swingman whose skill set could enable him to project into a 3 and D role in the NBA someday.

Side note:

Ziaire Williams may not exactly have played well in his team’s loss to Oregon yesterday, but on the plus side, he does seem to be a smart person.  There’s a chance that maybe his game is more cut out for the NBA than college basketball, as it’s a faster paced game in the NBA, it’s a more perimeter-oriented game, and fewer junk defenses.

Check out this tweet that he posted just hours before the game, as he cited the book, Mastery by George Leonard.

This is some really interesting stuff to think about, and if you have the time, be sure to give George Leonard’s Mastery a read. It will definitely stimulate your mind, and it has some interesting intellectual and philosophical insights in store in this book.
(Source:
Twitter/@therealZiaire)

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