A standout player few saw coming this season was the Charlotte Hornets big man Marc Williams, the 15th overall pick in the 2022 draft. Williams was solid as a rookie averaging 9.0 points and 7.7 rebounds on 63.7 percent shooting with 1.0 blocks nightly. He was efficient enough to rank among the NBA’s top 150 players for 2022-23 among various advanced stats including VORP and BPM, peaking in the league’s Top 40 in PER (19.8), but he didn’t really blow anyone away. outside of Charlotte on the road – the team going 27-55 and ranking third from last in net rating (-7.4) played a role in that.
Still, Williams took over in 2023-24, scoring 13.6 points and 10.4 rebounds on 67.5% shooting in 14 games with 1.0 blocks and 0.9 steals. He made a huge impact, improving the Hornets by 22.6 points per 100 possessions during his time on the court (before Wednesday night) thanks to his exceptional rebounding and impressive paint protection skills.
Give a playmaker LaMelo Ball’s As great a finisher around the basket as Williams has been borderline unfair thus far, as the 21-year-old center is shooting 70.2 percent from within five feet of the basket in 2023-24, one of the marks the sharpest in the league. . Williams measured in with a 7-foot-6 wingspan at the combine, already making him one of the longest players in the NBA, and that, coupled with his athleticism, makes such a finish fairly easy for the former Duke star player:
LaMelo Ball throws it to Mark Williams for Hornets alley-oop SLAM 💥pic.twitter.com/TU5ezM1oyl
– Clutch Points (@ClutchPoints) November 23, 2023
Before Charlotte’s Wednesday night game against the Washington Wizards – a 117-114 victory for the Hornets in which Williams was responsible for 11 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks (he was a plus-six that night) – the 7-footer already ranked in the league’s Top 10 in both cases BY and WS/48. But even in advanced metrics that don’t overly value low-risk, high-efficiency big men who don’t bring much in the way of self-creation or playmaking, like BPM or VORP, Williams still has a pretty high rating, sitting 35th in the former and 43rd in the latter.
Still, it’s unclear what Williams’ exact ceiling is.
He’s shooting just 68.5 percent from his foul line, doesn’t boast a great jumper (he’s yet to attempt a three in the NBA), and his pick-and-roll finishing is just above average (he ranks in the 63rd percentile in the league). at 1.21 points per possession in the type of game). However, Hornets head coach Steve Clifford it seems certain that Williams will develop a three-ball system at one point, as he told our own Michael Scotto:
“Then the big key for him offensively is running the court, screening, rolling, and ultimately, he’ll be a three-point shooter. I have no questions about that. I don’t know if it will be there at the beginning of the year. That’s where the thumb injury set him back a little bit. But he’s a lot more instinctive offensively than I thought he would be when we first got him.
There are also other positives aside from the obvious: he’s a good creator outside of the short role (1.4 assists per night so far in just his second season, which is more that great men like Hassan Whiteside Or Tyson Chandler average over a campaign) and he doesn’t try to do too much with the ball, although that could indicate a much higher lack of ceiling than he’s currently showing.
He also already ranks third in the NBA in offensive rebound rate, which tells us he should be a monster on the glass for years to come. A big man who can grab offensive rebounds and finish around the basket at such a high level is a major luxury for the modern NBA offense that relies so heavily on long jumpers. Additionally, Williams can sometimes pass to the wings and guards without being totally exposed, even though he’s not yet the most agile. He struggles when he has to defend ball handlers and sometimes wins.
Several different screen-roll/pop coverages from Charlotte vs. Boston, including Mark Williams dropping Jrue + Tatum – helps when Brandon Miller is able to switch to stretch-5s and stay out of the rotation versus pops.
Nice work by Mark, handling the Jrue/BOS Ram pick-and-roll pic.twitter.com/i8vGHCwq94
–Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) November 22, 2023
What is clear is that in Williams, the Hornets have what could amount to a Top 12 NBA center in years to come, based solely on his elite finishing in the paint and ability to gobbling up rebounds from both ends.
We’ll see what Williams ultimately becomes – he’s probably not next Bam Adebayo due to his lack of versatility on offense, but a Gen Z version of the aforementioned Chandler who can maybe shoot threes one day would be a huge boost for Charlotte in his own right.
Either way, Hornets fans should be happy with what they’ve seen so far from their young starting center.
– Frank Urbina