The 2016-2017 Gonzaga Bulldogs won more games and made the program’s first appearance in the NCAA National Championship game thanks to a talented and versatile lineup that had Bob Cousy award finalist Nigel Williams-Goss pulling the strings.
After leaving the University of Washington for greener pastures, Williams-Goss accomplished everything he set out to do in his time at Gonzaga. With his degree in hand, a WCC Player of the Year and Final Four appearance to his name, and college in the rearview mirror, Williams-Goss has his biggest challenge ahead—carving out a spot on an NBA roster.
Williams-Goss has three seasons of college film that reveal no doubts about his ability to read the floor and put himself and his teammates in the best position to succeed. Time and time again, the crafty point guard exhibited the ability to execute under duress and handle pressure defense without being rushed into turnovers or poor decisions. Moreover, he is an excellent rebounder for his position (6.0rpg last season and 5.1rpg over his NCAA career) which puts him in a position to immediately initiate his team’s transition game.
He is adept at running the pick-and-roll, a necessity at the NBA level, and is able to score in the paint (he can make floaters in his sleep) despite not having the same electric first step as some of his younger contemporaries in this draft class. But therein lies the rub for Williams-Goss when evaluating his NBA potential. On tape, he simply doesn’t look as explosive as the other point guards in this group (to be fair, De’Aaron Fox seems to play at fast forward) which can be problematic in a league where everyone is bigger, faster, and stronger.
That’s not to say that Williams-Goss isn’t athletic, he certainly is as demonstrated when he posted the fastest time in the lane agility drill at the NBA Combine last month. But the concerns about his explosiveness are out there, and when coupled with his average shooting ability, leave him out of the first round in the eyes of most draft analysts. The NBA has undergone a pace-and-space revolution over the last decade, and more than ever general managers place a premium on athletic freaks and three-point shooting. Those are two areas where Williams-Goss simply doesn’t jump out at you.
On the defensive side of the ball, Williams-Goss showed that he wants to take the tough assignments (remember when he asked to cover Jevon Carter in the final possession of the Sweet 16 against West Virginia or harassed Justin Jackson into a 6-19 performance in the title game?), and has the aptitude and motor to impact the game as a two-way player. Williams-Goss has good size for the point guard position, and his length and strength provide him with good physical tools to battle on the defensive end.
While there is work left to be done in the form of improving his long range (33.1% from 3 in college) and off-the-dribble shooting (80.4% of career 3’s were assisted), NBA General Managers can rest assured that Williams-Goss will get the most out of his talent. There is no denying his work ethic, and he genuinely seems to enjoy and embrace the grind of player development. That is not always a given with prospects, and it leaves coaches and front office executives with one less thing to worry about when considering whether to spend a draft pick on the Gonzaga guard.
Blake Stepp was the last Gonzaga guard to get drafted by an NBA team all the way back in 2004 when the Timberwolves selected him at the end of the second round. Whether Williams-Goss can end that drought and hear his name called on draft night remains unclear at this point, but he is a definite lock to land a summer league and training camp invite at minimum should he go undrafted. He has undoubtedly impressed teams with his maturity and basketball IQ in interviews throughout the draft process, and he simply does too many things well not to get a legitimate chance at a roster spot in the league. Regardless of where and when the opportunity is presented to him, Williams-Goss will undoubtedly make the most of it.