It’s been half a year since the 2021 NBA Draft took place and there has been an immense amount of young talent dominating the league. The likes of Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley and Scottie Barnes have made instant contributions to their teams in great ways and have led the way for the remainder of the draft class. However, the Memphis Grizzlies selected a special talent and did so in a surprising fashion.
As all Grizzlies fans are aware, Memphis traded up to draft Ziaire Williams with the 10th pick. The deal was centred around Jonas Valanciunas who was sent to the Pelicans for Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe. Memphis was originally slotted with the 17th pick who turned out to be Trey Murphy. Since these rookies have played just over half a season’s worth of basketball, let’s take a look at how the Grizzlies’ decision has panned out thus far.
Comparing Ziaire Williams to those drafted after
Was it worth the Grizzlies trading up for Williams? Prior to the draft, the Stanford one-and-done was projected to go somewhere in the early twenties. However, out of all the rookies selected in the first round, Williams has been one of the most impressive of the bunch.
The 6-foot-8 forward is currently averaging 6.8 points and 1.6 rebounds per game in 20 minutes of action while playing a big role in this Grizzlies team. Although his stats don’t scream anything crazy, Williams has had great performances including 17 points in two instances both in big-time victories over the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors.
Although it’s still a short period of time in their young careers, Williams’ productivity has been greater than his counterpart of that draft-day trade. Trey Murphey is only averaging 3.8 points per game in 13 minutes per contest. Considering that he’s on a struggling New Orleans Pelicans team, the sheer impact that Ziaire brings to the game is much more immense than Murphey.
Out of the other players that were drafted before Williams up to the 17th pick there are only two players who have played greater than the Grizzlies rookie. Chris Duarte (13th pick) has surprised the entire basketball world and Alperen Sengun (16th pick) has shown glimpses of greatness.
Duarte started off the season hot but has cooled down averaging 13.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. On the other hand, Sengun has been consistently good for the Rockets putting up 8.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.
Ziaire Williams is a future star for the Memphis Grizzlies
Despite the statistical difference in performance between Williams and these two players, it’s safe to assume that Memphis would select Ziaire again even if they could go back in time to the draft. Duarte is already 24 years old compared to Williams who is only 20 years of age. Ziaire Williams not only fits the timeline of the Grizzlies more than Duarte but his overall potential is greater as he is still a raw player on the surface.
The depth at the big man position is one of Memphis’ strong suits, so although Sengun is a great player, he would be hindered in his progression if he was on the Grizzlies. Zach Kleiman has been great as the general manager for Memphis and drafting Ziaire Williams was another piece of evidence towards that.
It’s easy to forget that Williams was the sixth-ranked prospect out of his entire high school class, his potential is through the roof. Memphis is already a team for the now but their young core isn’t close to scratching the surface of just how good they can be.