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D-League Player Profiles: Jawad Williams

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Hey, remember player profiles?  We'll wrap up Rio Grade Valley today with a look at Jawad Williams, a 6'9", 220 pound forward currently on the Cleveland Cavaliers roster.  We're profiling him here because it's a good bet he'll be at Summer League, and because he's good.

How he got here

Jawad Williams was a high school All-American from a sports family (his mother played basketball at Cleveland State and his sisters played at Vanderbilt and Virginia; his father and brother are boxers).  After high school he went to the University of North Carolina, where he stayed four years.  He was a part of the group that went 8-20 during the 2001-2002 season (remember Matt Doherty?) before winning the national championship Williams' senior year.

Williams was something of a utility player at UNC, eventually playing alongside Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashard McCants and Jackie Manuel (and later Marvin Williams and David Noel).  He quickly showed a knack for both scoring and rebounding, finishing third on the team in each as a freshman.  Williams began to accumulate injuries in his junior season, most of them a result of being hit in the head in a few different games, and he sat out a game against Coastal Carolina with a concussion.  A few weeks later, he collided with Georgia Tech's Jarrett Jack and broke his nose.  Williams still managed to be the team's second-leading rebounder and third-leading scorer that year.  He also improved his free-throw shooting during his time at UNC and finished his career there 46th on the school's all-time scoring list.

Williams went undrafted by the NBA after leaving UNC.  The biggest knocks on him at the time was a tendency to lose focus and poor ballhandling skills.  Given how many other players get drafted with the same negatives, though, it's a little curious that no one wants to take a chance on him, especially given how much the NBA loves former UNC and Duke players.  And it's not like he was a scrub, either.  He was seen as a good rebounder and had a history of taking and making big shots and college, plus as DraftExpress noted, Williams was/is

A good man to man defender, capable of playing the type of physical and exhausting lock down defense that opponents hate. He has a nice wingspan and he uses it well to block shots and come up with steals.

The more I follow the NBA and the draft process, though, the less I understand how some guys get passed up.  Williams signed a preseason contract with the Clippers but somehow didn't make the team.  After playing in Israel, Spain and Japan for several years, Williams joined the Cleveland Cavaliers' 2008 Summer League team (he had played high school basketball in nearby Lakewood), and ended up sticking through training camp and made it to the regular season roster (though the Cavs had to waive Ronald Dupree to make it happen).

Williams appeared in three games for Cleveland before being waived, though he then signed another 10-day contract with the team and played in six more, though unfortunately he never played more than two minutes in any of them.  He was released by the Cavaliers and went to the D-League, joining the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.  We'll take a look at his season after the jump.

D-League play

Though Jawad Williams only played in 19 D-League games this year, he made them count, and scored in double figures in every game except for one.  His best game was probably his fourth, when he scored 32 points, and shot 4-6 from three, and grabbed 7 rebounds.  He also turned the ball over only once in that game and collected 5 assists, his season-high.

Williams has a good ability to get to the free-throw line and shot 78 percent, though somewhere between college and the D-League last year he came to view himself as a three-point shooter.  He shot almost 42 percent, a good figure, but RGV also had to get through games where he shot 2-8 or 1-6 from behind the arc.  He also shot 10 or more threes in four different games.  He finished fourth in the league in scoring, and the Cavaliers signed him again on April 9.  He played in one more regular season game for the Cavs and he made the most of it, scoring 8 points on 3-6 shooting, including 2-5 on threes, in 10 minutes of game time.

Overall outlook

Williams is on Cleveland's postseason roster, and while he's unlikely to play, it's a good sign that he could stick on that team.  Cleveland is pretty set at the forward positions, though they have several contracts that expire after the season, including Anderson Varejao, who they'll likely resign, Joe Smith, who they may resign, and Lorenzen Wright, who's Lorenzen Wright.  It's reported that LeBron James likes Williams, though, and in addition to being a versatile scorer is a solid enough defender that Mike Brown won't be mad at him.