Thursday, March 24, 2011

Arizona and Derrick Williams' Statement Game

Derrick Williams shared the spotlight with his entire Arizona team after the win against Texas. It wasn't his best game, but he came up big at the end. His teammates showed what they were capable of by picking up the slack, most notably a 16 point performance by Solomon Hill, who channeled his high school basketball days against his SoCal peer - Jordan Hamilton. The game gained the attention of some after Derrick Williams hit a big shot a the end, but the attention was mainly focused on Rick Barnes being out-coached yet again.

Against Coach K and Duke, simply out-coaching the opponent was out of the question. Like Texas, Duke had more talent and also had a frontline that could give Arizona's star some trouble. Nobody picked Arizona to beat Duke. Derrick Williams would have to carry the load and then some. "He's good, but he's not THAT good" was the general consensus among the experts.

Well not only did Derrick Williams prove who the best player on the court was, but he did in fact lead his team to victory. He did it in such a convincing way that he has vaulted himself front and center into the draft spotlight. Before the game, he was a top 5 pick with an outside shot of going number one. Now he has two legs in the race and his head may be out in front.

Williams started off the game with two big three pointers and a thunderous dunk. He was matched up against Mason Plumlee for the most part, who did manage to block two of his shots in the first half. Two blocked shots were hardly enough to keep D-Will down. He battled his way against a bigger front line and a pesky Singler who tried to help with double teams. It worked - once. There were countless other times where he was just too quick, too strong, and too determined to be stopped. He scored 25 of his 32 points in the 1st half as he fought to keep his team above water. It was obvious it was his night as he hit a contested shot from beyond NBA 3-pt right before he headed to the locker room for halftime.

He had kept his team in the game, trailing by six at the half. Still, there was no way he could keep up his pace to score 50 points. He was going to need some help - he had to do enough fighting on defense and the boards. After halftime, he got some help with the aide of Momo Jones and company. It had seemed his magic had worn off on the rest of his team, like in the movie Space Jam when everyone got ahold of MJ's "secret stuff". Derrick Williams was posterizing people with athleticism that I could only explain by hypothesizing that Amare and Shawn Marion had an affair during their days in Phoenix. Derrick Williams is what they left behind as a gift to the state of Arizona. Suddenly, Jamelle Horne channeled his inner D-Will and served up his own facial to Kyle Singler.

A Duke team that looked to be too intimidating and big for Arizona in the first half, was now the team that struggled to get anything going. Mason Plumlee stopped boxing out. Nolan Smith was lost the entire game and Singler wasn't able to keep up his hot start. Many will blame the loss on Kyrie Irving, but the credit goes to Arizona who went straight at Duke and turned the tables around. The second half ended up being a dunk fest and Arizona came away with a 93-77 win.

Our hero only had 7 points in the second half. His job was already done in the first twenty minutes. He single-handedly gave his teammates hope going into the locker room. He did it all in the first half and when his teammates were ready to dig into a struggling Duke team, he focused on the dirty work.

Williams grabbed 13 rebounds in the game as Arizona out-rebounded Duke 35-26. More importantly, he offered reinforcement to the belief that he can play power forward. Not only can this guy play power forward, but he is perfect for what the power forward position is nowadays.

Williams is strong in the paint - he can finish with contact and with either hand. There is a reason why he drew more fouls than anyone else in the nation. His explosiveness isn't a bad thing to have going up against 7 footers either.

D-Will is also highly skilled. He puts the ball on the floor and gets fouled. He is a great shooter, it is time to give him some credit for his unbelievable 3-pt percentage. He was 5-6 tonight against a Duke team who is one of the stingiest teams around on the perimeter! Williams will be a matchup nightmare who can play some three, but will do more than fine against PFs too. He is a new age power forward who can stretch the floor and do whatever is asked of him. Tonight he was even seen dribbling the ball up the court on a couple of occasions.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Williams is where he started from. He was a second rounder before this season. He has put in an incredible amount of work to transfer his game. Not only has he become a better shooter, he has made himself into a better athlete! He has pretty much turned himself from a Derrick Brown level athlete to a guy that can hang with Blake Griffin. With his work ethic and current level of play, the sky is the limit and the floor is the ceiling.

Welcome to the big time, Derrick Williams.

Other Notes

- Mason Plumlee showed some impressive things and some not so impressive things. He had four block shots, including two on Williams and another one where his head came close to hitting the rim! He gets up and down the court well and can elevate with the best of them. Unfortunately for his stock, he also had the fire taken out of him in the second half. He didn't box out and didn't make his presence known around the hoop. As I said earlier, the second half became a dunk contest for Arizona. Plumlee leaves a lot to be desired in terms of competitiveness.

- Nolan Smith was completely out of sync playing with Kyrie Irving today. I feel for the kid. He had a great career at Duke and I wonder how he feels about having to change his style in the middle of the tournament after a great season on the ball. He was visibly disappointed after the game - no doubt he was more shocked than anybody that their run is over. He wasn't prepared for his career to end today. I wasn't either.

- Kyle Singler also had a great career ended today. While Im not high on his draft stock, he finished the season strong. I have many bad memories of him destroying Maryland due to mismatches. He looked his best in his early years when he could spread the floor at the 4 position. An absolute matchup nightmare. He has transformed himself into more of a three which will help his stock, but he's nothing more than a role player. I will always remember his toughness which was highlighted today when he suffered a cut by preventing Derrick Williams from getting an easy bucket.

- Kyrie Irving was overshadowed by Derrick Williams, but he played great. There will be more to said about his impact on the team than his actual performance today, but there is nothing he did wrong. Credit to him for making the comeback in the first place. He is still very much in the discussion for the #1 pick along with Williams, Barnes, and possibly Perry Jones and Kanter after workouts. The race is more wide open than I ever remember.

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