Johnathan Williams is working out for the Denver Nuggets today, and in the process revealed he still isn’t sure if he is returning to Gonzaga.
Gonzaga's Johnathan Williams worked out for the Nuggets this morning. Says he's still deciding if he'll return to college or stay in draft. pic.twitter.com/tn1hJ4HRsf— Denver Stiffs (@denverstiffs) May 23, 2017
All of this is a really big deal right about now, because per NCAA rules, Williams has 24 hours to decide if he will return to Gonzaga or stay in the NBA Draft. Seemingly, right now for Williams, his option, if he wants to make it into the NBA, is to get a guarantee from a team, because right now, he isn’t showing up on any mock draft lists out there.
Williams had a great season for the Zags, and he could be poised to have an even bigger impact next season, but there is one aspect the Zags won’t be able to compete with: money.
Take the Houston Rockets and Kyle Wiltjer, for example. Wiltjer went undrafted in the 2016 draft, but the Rockets saw something they liked and signed him to a relatively small contract by basketball standards. By college athlete standards, it was a hefty amount.
Wiltjer only saw 44 minutes of play in the NBA, and he spent most of his time honing his skills in the D-League. He was payed over half a million dollars last season for his services, and is poised to make $1.3 million next season.
In this new age of the NBA, being 6’9 is no longer an undersized power forward. And Williams has demonstrated throughout his collegiate career he has the athletic abilities to rise to the occasion. As a freshman at Missouri, he developed into one of the nation’s better shot blockers, averaging 1.6 blocks per game. At Gonzaga, he refined his shooting abilities, hitting 59 percent from the floor and 40 percent from long-range.
In other words, no matter how much you think it would behoove Williams to come back to Gonzaga to rise up next year’s mock draft boards, the fact of the matter is the D-League now provides a realistic option for a path to the NBA—and most importantly, a way to make money while doing it.
From Williams’ perspective, it makes complete sense to test the water. On paper, Gonzaga probably won’t be a better team next season. They most likely will still make the NCAA Tournament, but they probably won’t make the NCAA championship game. On that level, Williams cannot accomplish much more.
However, on a personal, statistic driven level, Williams can really make a name for himself next season. After averaging nearly 30 minutes per game his sophomore year, Williams saw a decline in his minutes, solely because the Bulldogs also had Przemek Karnowski, Zach Collins, and Killian Tillie in the mix. Two of those names are gone, and Williams is the lone veteran on an otherwise young frontcourt. There is an opportunity to really make a name for himself on the national level next season, and that might translate to increased awareness in the NBA as well.
So today’s workout with the Nuggets will be important for Williams. Because the due date exists so he can retain his eligibility, there is no point in making up your mind that much earlier. By staying in the process this long, he has been able to work out for multiple teams and get invaluable advice.