Mark Williams: Why the wait is worth it

After being selected just after the 2022 draft lottery, many Hornets fans were rightfully excited over the thought of having a young athletic center in Mark Williams alongside Lamelo Ball. The excitement was for good reason, as Williams was the 2022 Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive player of the year and made All-Conference his second year at Duke.

Unfortunately for Hornets fans, They would have to wait to see Mark Williams. Williams only played in garbage time for the first week of the season. After that, he got 27 straight DNPs. There are three main reasons for this.

Why wasn’t Mark Williams playing earlier in the season?

The first and biggest reason is that Mark was simply not ready to play at the NBA level yet consistently. He had to learn to read defenses and play in a professional offensive set. Due to this, he spent a couple of stints in the G-League, where he played fantastically. This gave him the reps he desperately needed to keep up with the pace and play of the NBA.

Another key reason was the emergence of Nick Richards. For good reason, he entered the season ahead of Mark Williams on the depth chart. Richards began the season as one of the NBA’s best rim protectors and offensive rebounders. For the season, Richards is grabbing over two offensive rebounds per game, to go along with one block and eight points, all in less than eighteen minutes per game. There’s no doubt that Nick Richards has earned every minute so far this season.

The third and final reason Mark Williams didn’t play to start the season is the breakout of Mason Plumlee. Before being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, Plumlee was in the midst of the most productive season of his career. With Career highs in scoring (12.2 ppg), rebounding (9.7 rpg), and field goal percentage (67.3), Plumlee solidified himself as a quality center. Especially when considering his improved defense and free throws, he also earned his minutes.

Now that the reasons Mark Williams didn’t play until recently are clear, we can now examine what impact he could potentially have on the Hornets.

Mark Williams has the tools to be a great defender. Standing 7’1, and with a 7’7 wingspan, Williams’ physical tools are among the best in the league. Williams also has a whopping 9’9 standing reach! His defensive rotations and instincts are already top-notch. Williams has also shown some ability to switch onto the perimeter, with his biggest play coming against Trae Young on February 13th. Williams switched on to Young in the fourth quarter. Young attempted a 3-point shot, which Williams blocked. Being able to switch onto the perimeter is a huge plus for the starting center.

Mark Williams’ scoring output has also seen a noticeable jump since he earned the starting role. In his four games starting, He’s scored double-digit points three times and grabbed double-digit rebounds twice. Even with the improved scoring, Mark Williams has a ton of room to grow offensively. In practices and shootarounds, Williams has been working on his outside shot. His form is mechanically sound, and his touch is good. Before the draft, a post about Williams’ outside shot garnered attention.

Mark Williams leads the hornets in multiple advanced stats. He Ranks first in Total Rebound Percentage (18.6%), Block Percentage (6.5%), Win Shares Per 48 minutes (0.178), and Defensive Box Plus Minus. Advanced stats are not always a reliable way to determine how good a player is, but when used alongside the eye test and basic box scores, it becomes apparent that Mark Williams is the Hornet’s center of the future.