Alan Williams played minimally in only 10 games last season, but this season has been a revelation. Williams has appeared in 44 games this season, and in the 21 games since the all-star break, he’s averaged 11.2 points and 9.5 rebounds in just 22.7 minutes per game.
Williams is just one of the many young Phoenix Suns who’s gotten more playing time as a result of the de-activation of Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and Tyson Chandler, and Dragan Bender, but Williams specifically has come out of nowhere, as opposed to their other prospects like Marqueese Chriss, Tyler Ulis, T.J. Warren, Alex Len, and Derrick Jones Jr., who are all managing the expectations of being a high draft pick, college star, or dunk contest participant in Jones Jr.’s case.
Alan Williams had none of that. He was an undrafted and undersized player out of University of California, Santa Barbara, yet he has been on a tear against NBA level bigs. Williams stepped his averages up to 11.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game in March, and he had 13 straight games from February 24 to March 19 with double digit points. Some of his performances have been unbelievable: 16 points, 17 rebounds, and four steals on 5/9 shooting against Golden State in just 25 minutes, 15 points, 15 rebounds, two steals, and a block on 6/7 shooting in just 25 minutes in a 20 point win over Indiana, Williams has 14 double-doubles all in all.
The Suns haven’t been winning games neither with nor without Williams, but the team plays winning basketball with him in the game. He has 1.12 points per possession on offense vs. surrendering only 1.06 on defense. Alan is one of only three active players on Phoenix to net positive in this way (T.J. Warren, Derrick Jones.) Williams is also the only active Sun with a win share rate above league average. His .138 per 48 minutes is seconded by Derrick Jones, whose .100 rate is right at the average.
Here is how Williams compares against some of the other Suns in these key analytical categories:
We can see Williams not only is leading the way in win share rate and PER, but he is also playing an aggressive brand of basketball with a high free throw rate (.436, 2nd only to Len’s .456) and rebound rate (22.4%, 1st,) as well as playing both sides of the ball (roughly 1.0 win share on offense and defense each.)
Williams, unfortunately, has the most limited upside by nature of his age (24,) as well as his 6’8″ frame, but high energy big men in the NBA are never in surplus. All high level teams feature a high energy front court player in some capacity, whether it is Tristan Thompson of Cleveland, Draymond Green of Golden State, Amir Johnson of Boston, or now Dewayne Dedmon on San Antonio.
In Phoenix’s inevitable rebuild, where veterans Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Tyson Chandler, Jared Dudley, and Leandro Barbosa are traded for assets, Phoenix can either keep or get rid of Williams, but keeping him would be the smart move for the Suns. Players who can be effective as a big man in the NBA at 6’8″ are a rarity, and it provides for a different look against Phoenix’ opponents. Williams is also developing chemistry with these Suns. The Derrick Jones and Alan Williams duo has outscored opponents by 7.9 points per 100 possessions in already 230 minutes of playing together. The trio of those two and Tyler Ulis are outscoring opponents by 9.0 points per 100 possessions in 170 minutes.
Williams might just have a long-term place in the league after being a short-term contract player over the past two seasons.