Has Gabby Williams Played As Well As Expected?

 

By Brady Klopfer

 

Gabby Williams ended her UCONN career as, arguably, the most well-rounded player in the nation. She didn’t have the one dominant trait that a player like A’ja Wilson possessed; she simply performed every aspect of the game at a high level.

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And now it’s coming back to bite her. Williams was seen as a safe pick when the Chicago Sky selected her fourth overall in the 2018 Draft, but safe has its positives and its negatives.

The positive is that Williams was ready to start on day one, and has held her starting position through the first 14 games of the year. She looks like she’ll be starting for the next decade or so.

The negative is that, especially as of late, Williams has looked, for lack of a better word, uninspiring. Over the last five games, she is averaging 6.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 40 percent from the field. On the year, her 7.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game are passable, but her efficiency (47.1 percent true-shooting) is not too enticing.

The problem with Williams hasn’t been that she’s hit a rookie wall. It’s that she’s looked perfectly competent, with very few signs that she’ll progress beyond that level.

It starts with her physicality. In a league rapidly trending towards athleticism, Williams occupies an odd space. She’s not as quick as the bulk of the league’s guards, but is undersized and underpowered against most power forwards. She’s positionless, but not the positive connotation of the word. While the term is thrown around to describe players like Candace Parker and Azura Stevens’ ability to play numerous positions, the term, when applied to Williams, really means that she’s devoid of any one position that she can play at the highest level.

To this point, Williams has relied on her fundamentals, which remain elite. She handles the pick-and-roll well, setting strong screens, and rolling with divine timing. She displays a good touch around the rim, provided she’s not in among the trees.

Defensively, the results have been similar. Her technique would make any coach grin, as her footwork, rotations and timing are impeccable. But when forced into isolation situations, the results are less encouraging. Guards can take her off the dribble, and bigs can shoot over the top of her. With the current depth of the WNBA, offenses don’t provide teams with players to hide on, so Williams is put on the spot with regularity.

Of course, the smart money says you should never bet against Gabby Williams. But so far, in admittedly a very small sample, Williams looks destined for a long career as a role player. That’s valuable, of course, but perhaps not what many expected.