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March Madness Prospect Watch Day 10: Nigel Williams-Goss

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The last prospect watch goes to perhaps the most efficient player in the country: Nigel Williams-Goss.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-South Carolina vs Gonzaga Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Nigel Williams-Goss - Gonzaga

Projected draft spot: N/R (Draft Express), N/R (CBS Sports), N/R (ESPN)

Stats: 32.7 minutes, 16.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.1 blocks, 49.3 FG%, 36.8 3PT%, 88.4 FT%

Strengths: Drive-and-dish potential, Improved shooting, Defensive IQ, Physical build

Weaknesses: Athleticism, Finishing at the rim, Defending quicker players, Age

Game Time: Monday v.s. North Carolina at 7:20 PM MST

What to watch for: Nigel Williams-Goss is a transfer junior leading the Gonzaga Bulldogs tonight at the point guard position. He transferred from the University of Washington after garnering some hype from his first two seasons there, but he was forced to sit out the 2015-16 year due to transfer rules. In his first year leading Gonzaga, he’s made one hell of an impact for the team, leading them to a 37-1 record and a National Championship appearance, beating my South Carolina Gamecocks to get there. Williams-Goss is the embodiment of a veteran point guard on the floor, as he directs the offense and makes sure the ball gets to the right place. His has had a gargantuan effect on the team.

He has also played like one of the best players in the country, earning WCC Player of the Year for his efforts this season. Only eight players averaged 16 points, five rebounds, and four assists in college basketball this year to match Williams-Goss’ numbers, one of them being Markelle Fultz. When factoring in the steals he generates (over 1.7 per game), nobody can match the Gonzaga product. Williams-Goss led the nation In College Reference’s win shares metric with 8.1, the next closest player being Semi Ojeleye at 7.7.

Clearly, Williams-Goss had a productive season to say the least, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to being a great professional player. There are very real issues with his agility and athleticism, the fear being that his skills won’t translate to the next level. He has an advanced feel for the game, and that’s led to some easy baskets at the college level that won’t be as successful in the NBA, simply because the recovery time for NBA athletes is infinitely better. It’s also a red flag that Williams-Goss is having much more success as a redshirt junior (he will turn 23 years old before next season starts) in a weaker conference, though he was on draft radars after his freshman season.

Still, it’s clear that Williams-Goss could be a key contributor in the NBA. It may take him a season or two to adjust to the pace of the NBA, but once he does, it isn’t hard to see him running pick and rolls, orchestrating offense, and scoring from all over the floor. Defense is always going to be a concern, but he fights hard, making it much easier for coaches to bear when he produces like he has offensively. Williams-Goss doesn’t separate from his defender very far when generating shots, but he’s crafty enough to get the space he needs, and strong enough to fend off his defender. Some of the shots he made within 15 feet of the hoop against South Carolina were very difficult, but the point guard remained in control, using his body and touch to make things easier.

The key tonight for Williams-Goss will be how he exerts his will on the game. Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins, the two main big men on the Gonzaga roster, will be going toe to toe with Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, and Tony Bradley, a strong front line for North Carolina. Williams-Goss truly has an advantage over Joel Berry, the UNC point guard, and how he exploits it will be key to Gonzaga’s success. If he plays well, I expect Justin Jackson, a more lengthy, athletic player, to guard him. How will Williams-Goss respond to different players guarding him? Will he struggle to make an impact against a superior athlete? Pretty much everyone will be a superior athlete at the NBA level, so this is basically a test run.

For a Denver Nuggets team with both point guard prospects younger than Williams-Goss, selecting the Gonzaga guard in the second round would be a smart gamble. Williams-Goss would be an excellent 15th man on the roster as someone who could not only provide injury insurance for Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay, but also develop his game and potentially be a better fit than one or both of those players. It’s not difficult to see shades of Nikola Jokic in Karnowski’s game, and the way that Williams-Goss has played this year, selecting him and putting him next to Jokic may continue to bring out excellent play. While we’re at it, let’s just draft Zach Collins in the first round as well.

I’m very impressed with what Williams-Goss has been able to do at the college level so far, and because of that, the Nuggets should absolutely keep him on the radar during the NBA Draft.