New York Knicks: Why FSU’s Sixth Man Patrick Williams is a potential Lottery pick

New York Knicks, Patrick Williams

The New York Knicks could target FSU’s Patrick Williams in the draft:

The stretch fours aren’t the sexiest players that can be the lead guy in a championship-caliber team.  But they are often the glue guys who can galvanize a championship team replete with high-volume shotmakers and high-usage stars.

Think of those championship teams that have Robert Horry, Chris Bosh, Kevin Love, Draymond Green, Pascal Siakam, or even the less successful Houston Rockets’ small-ball team that has PJ Tucker and Robert Covington. Or if you’re a New York Knicks‘ die-hard, think of the late Anthony Mason or Larry Johnson.

All these players share the same quality: versatility and defensive tenacity.

Teams in the modern NBA now covet swiss-army knives. This is one of the main reasons why Florida State U’s sixth man Patrick Williams has seen his stock rise ahead of the NBA Draft.  From a prospective mid-round selection, Williams has jumped towards the backend of the lottery in most current Mock Drafts.

And teams started to have taken notice, including the New York Knicks, who have made their due diligence on him along with his 3-and-D teammate Devin Vassell.

What makes Williams intriguing is his combination of size, athleticism, and upside.

“The good thing about Patrick is he’s so versatile. He could play three positions in the NBA with no problem— the 2, 3, and the 4,” Williams’ Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton told Empire Sports Media.

With a body— 6’8, 230 lbs, and 6-foot-11 wingspan— that is NBA ready, Williams looks every pound like the prototypical power forward.  But he’s only turned 19 last August.

The youngest college prospect in the Draft is the only third one-and-done under Hamilton’s program at FSU. The first two were Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Clippers’ Mfiondu Kabengele, who were both picked in the first round. Williams could soon join them.

Just like his predecessors, Williams’ numbers in his lone season with the Seminoles aren’t that sexy: 9.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block per game, 50.3% and 32% from the two-point and three-point region, respectively.

Numbers do tell a story, but in Williams’ case, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Hamilton has adapted to the modern way of playing basketball, from load management to playing dribble drives and small ball.  This season, 10 Seminoles have averaged more than 10 minutes with only senior guard Trent Forrest breaching the 30-minute mark. Hamilton’s equal opportunity system may have held his players back in producing gaudy numbers, but it didn’t stop them from flying on the radar of the NBA teams.

Without the guarantee of major minutes, Williams entered Florida State with one thing in mind— to work on the intangibles that will make him a well-rounded player in the next level. 

“One thing about Patrick, he came to Florida State determined that he was going to be one of the hardest playing guys on the court. He was going to be one of the better defenders on the court and that is unusual for high school kids to come in the college level and they focused on their defense and play extremely hard on that end,” Hamilton said.

“And I thought that really showed the confidence that he has in his offensive abilities but he really wanted to enhance and develop those skills, the two areas (rebounding and shot blocking) which he thought would make a difference and I think it paid dividends for him,” he added.

Williams did all the dirty work to help the Seminoles win the ACC regular-season championship, something that he would carry to the NBA. He was voted by the ACC media and coaches as the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year and was named to the all-ACC Freshman Team.

Hamilton harped to me what every Draft analysts have already said about his rangy big man.

“He’s quick and he has the athleticism.  He handles the ball very well.  He shoots well from the perimeter.  He’s also a great pull-up guy, has a three-point shot, and drives well to the basket. He’s a tremendous athlete. He can defend all five positions.  He’s quick enough to defend point guards and strong enough to defend post guys. He has great basketball IQ, plays extremely hard and coachable,” Hamilton said.

But while the hype is building up for Williams ahead of the NBA Draft, the Seminoles coach was quick to temper unwarranted expectations that could hinder Williams’ development.

“Patrick is a good scorer.  Sure, he can pass the ball has great basketball IQ but I think he’s probably going to be a guy who could be more involved in rebounding, scoring, and shot-blocking,” Hamilton said.

Most would think it would be a reach to select Williams within the first 10 picks, but it’s not also hard to imagine teams would swing for the fences and get their hands on a 19-year old kid who has an NBA-ready body and is just barely scratching the surface of his potential.

Williams may not have the flashy game nor the star potential, but he has all the makings of a solid role player— a potential stretch four or a small-ball center in a championship-caliber team in the modern NBA in a few years time.

New York Knicks: Devin Vassell has the “It” factor, says FSU coach

New York Knicks, Devin Vassell

The New York Knicks could find their “it” factor in Devin Vassell:

Devin Vassell was only a three-star recruit when he entered Florida State University.  Two years later, he’s leaving the Seminoles as a widely considered lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton wasn’t surprised at all. To him, it was a validation of what they saw in Vassell when they recruited him out of a nondescript high school in Atlanta.

“This is the reason why we’re consistent.  We do a great job evaluating.  We identified him as a guy with good potential and we are pleased that he has really panned out just like we thought he would,” Hamilton told Empire Sports Media.

Hamilton has successfully built a strong program in Tallahassee that has consistently produced NBA players. Under his watch, the Seminoles have sent 14 players to the NBA — from Al Thornton to Malik Beasley and Jonathan Isaac.

For Vassell, the NBA Draft Day will be the culmination of two years of hard work and patience in the FSU basketball program.

“Devin started out as a freshman more of a role player at the beginning of the season.  And at the end of the season, in a game that we have to win in the ACC tournament to get to the semifinals against Virginia Tech, he was the guy who hit the three in the deep corner to tie the game and gives us a chance to go on overtime and get to the semifinals,” Hamilton recalled.

Vassell’s rise wasn’t a question of how but just a matter of when.

“That says a lot about his patience, his coachability.  Despite not playing much early in the season, he was prepared for the big moments which says a lot about his character,” Hamilton told Empire Sports Media.

In his sophomore year, Vassell led the Seminoles to the ACC regular-season championship.  He could have led them to a deep run in the NCAA tournament, if not for the pandemic.

From 10.7 minutes in his freshman year, his playing time shot up to 28.8 minutes, and he responded big-time, leading the well-balanced Seminoles in scoring (12.7 points) and rebounds (5.1), second both in blocked shots (0.9) and steals (1.4).

Many, if not all, draft analysts see him as a solid 3-and-D prospect.

Unknown to many, Vassell wasn’t born a shooter. But through sheer hard work, he was able to morph from a 21.3 percent three-point shooter in high school to over 40 percent in his two years in Florida State. His 6’9 wingspan and tremendous motor on both ends of the floor have made him an intriguing prospect.

“Whoever gets him will get a hell of a player. Because he is a great shooter, he loves to play defense, he’s coachable. He has all those attributes and he’ll make good contributions to whoever drafts him,” Hamilton said.

This season, we’ve seen the rise of shooters Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, two players who were not highly drafted.  Robinson, in fact, even was undrafted.  But their shooting and court smarts have helped the Miami Heat advance deeper in the playoffs.  And that could be the trajectory of Vassell’s NBA career or could be even bigger depending on where he lands.

“What separates Devin from a lot of guys is even though he has an even-keeled temperament, he has extreme confidence but he’s not selfish. He’s a team-guy but he has a knack of putting the ball in the basket.  He’s one those guys that you can’t leave open.  If you don’t contest his shot, a high percentage of those shots will go in. He’s shot over 40 percent of his three-point shots two years in a row. That speaks for itself,” he continued.

While Vassell’s game is tailor-fit into today’s NBA, it has also a throwback feel of an Allan Houston with that above-the-head, high trajectory jumper.

It’s no wonder the New York Knicks have put him on their radar.  A highly placed source told Empire Sports Media that the Knicks have reached out to Florida State early this week to gather more information on the team’s experience with Vassell and his one-and-done teammate Patrick Williams on and off the court.

Hamilton politely declined to confirm the Knicks’ growing interest.  All he said is that all 30 teams have, at one point, inquired about one or two of his three players in the Draft, including senior guard Trent Forrest.

It won’t be hard for Vassell to bring his shooting to the NBA, but the bigger question is: how will he thrive in the league as a defender?

Hamilton is confident that Florida State has prepared him to succeed in the next level.

“That’s all we do (ball screens) in practice.  In our league, our conference, we deal with a lot of ball screens.  Most of the NBA, in my opinion, they’re spacing the floor doing a lot of dribble drives. Not nearly as much ball screens as it once was.  Devin will absolutely have no problem defending (in the NBA) because he’s long, athletic, fast-learner and we were one of the better defensive teams in the country so he was well-trained,” Hamilton said.

But what makes Vassell stand out, Hamilton point to the kid’s intangibles, which is wrapped under his 6-foot-7 and 194-pounds scrawny frame.

“Sometimes, people evaluate all the physical attributes but I think it’s very difficult to evaluate, which is the most important thing, is that your mentality, your emotions in the game, your IQ, your ability to make decisions, and how you respond to stressful situations.  Well, that’s what they call it the “It” factor and Devin, he checks all those boxes,” Hamilton said.  “And the good thing about him is his best basketball is still ahead of him.”

Hamilton described Vassell as a gym rat.  If he’s not shooting the lights out, he’s in the weight room.  He’s not worried at all that Vassell has a lean frame. To him, it’s just a matter of time before the 20-year old wingman grows bigger, thicker, and stronger.  And when that happens, he believes, he’ll take his game to another level.

What separates a great pick from a draft bust is what the trained eye cannot always see. And Vassell, Hamilton said, has everything that points to him becoming an impact player in the NBA.

“Devin is a high-character youngster.  He has a great support system with his mother and father.  They are God-fearing people, he’s very religious and focused.  He has a tremendous basketball IQ.  He has great attention to detail.  He is extremely unselfish, a great teammate.  He’s a very hard worker.  He’s a fast-learner.  He has a tremendous amount of confidence.  He’s a guy when the game is on the line, he’s focused and his confidence rises and he’s able to deliver under stressful situations. He’s the guy who has the ‘It’ factor,” Hamilton said. 

Call him bias or whatever you want, but Hamilton has been in the business for so long that he knows it’s real when sees one. His coaching staff has been trained to value character more than high school accolades.  And that’s what led them to unearth a diamond in the rough hiding in Peachtree Ridge High School in Atlanta.

Vassell is no longer the best kept secret high school player in Atlanta.  He’s no longer playing under the radar. But his coach is glad to see he’s embracing the challenge, and he’s extremely confident about one thing: Vassell rises when the lights are at their brightest.

Vassell, Williams on the Knicks radar; NBA Draft pushed back

New York Knicks, Devin Vassell

The New York Knicks are not exclusively looking at point guards for their lottery pick in the NBA Draft.

The Knicks, who are slated to pick at No.8 barring any trade, have recently looked at two intriguing prospects that will be available at the second half of the lottery.

Empire Sports Media has learned yesterday that the Knicks have made their due diligence on Florida State University’s 3-and-D prospect Devin Vassell along with his one-and-done teammate Patrick Williams, the youngest college player in the Draft.

According to a highly placed source, the Knicks made a thorough background check on both players which wasn’t only confined to the coaching staff.

When reached for comment, FSU coach Leonard Hamilton neither confirmed nor denied the Knicks’ growing interest in his two-star players.

“[I’ve talked to] Just about everybody in the league who has the opportunity [to pick them]. I am saying, we’ve three kids who we think we’re going to be drafted, so about just every NBA team.  To be honest with you, it’s hard to even remember who all they were.  We’ve talked to so many teams about Trent Forrest, Patrick and Devin,” Hamilton told Empire Sports Media. “I’m not going to give particular names out there.”

A two-way player and a lights out shooter, the 6’6 Vassell could be the safest pick for the Knicks outside a motley of playmakers that will be available to them at No.8.

Vassell has blossomed from a role player as a freshman to a lottery talent in his sophomore year. The small forward made the All-ACC Second Team Selection after averaging a team-high 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds with second-best 1.9 steals and 0.9 shot blocks.  He also shot an outstanding 41.5 percent from deep, a valuable skill in the modern NBA, while leading the Seminoles to their first ACC regular-season title in 2020.

Several Mock Drafts have pegged him to be picked from as high as 8th to as low as 16th.

“Devin is going to play well regardless of where he goes and the coach he’ll play for.  He’s well prepared. I don’t think it matters [which team picks him].  He’s capable of learning whatever style of play he’ll be asked to do,” Hamilton said. 

Williams, on the other hand, is just the third one-and-done player from FSU after Malik Beasley (2016) and Jonathan Isaac 2017). He was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team and won the ACC Sixth Man of the Year after averaging a fourth team-best 9.2 points and 4.0 rebounds, a team-best 1.1 blocked shots, and 1.0 steal.

“He’s young, one of the youngest in the Draft. But I think he’ll fit in very well because he’s so versatile and he has an NBA-ready body,” Hamilton said of Williams.

While Williams is seen more as a project, he has a high upside as a 6’8 power forward who can defend basically all positions in the NBA.

Both players have also made it to the ACC Academic Honor Roll with Vassell making it for the second year in a row.

Hamilton, a three-time ACC Coach of the Year, has pride himself of having a holistic approach to his basketball program.

“We hold academics with a high esteem and our athletes have responded very well,” Hamilton said.

Whether the Knicks would pick Vassell or Williams or somebody else, Hamilton has faith in Tom Thibodeau’s coaching staff that they can turn things around in New York.

“I know Kenny (Payne), I know (Mike) Woodson.  I know a lot of positive things about Thibodeau. I have a tremendous respect for him. I think he’ll (Johnnie Bryant) be a great addition to the staff,” Hamilton said.

“I have a lot of confidence that the new administration at the Knicks will be determined and they are more than qualified.  I think they will do everything to bring back the Knicks’ glory days of the past,” he added.

Meanwhile, the league has pushed back the NBA Draft to Nov. 18 which remains subject to change as circumstances warrant it.

The delay will allow more time for the Knicks and the rest of the league to evaluate the Draft pool which is viewed as the most unpredictable since 2013.