New Jersey Nets: What Will Become of Sean Williams?

Danny PaskasSenior Analyst IJuly 8, 2008

Just what will become of Sean Williams? Will he progress steadily and become the next Josh Smith? Or will he never live up to his full potential, showing flashes every few games in the mold of Stromile Swift?

After becoming the nation’s top shot blocker in college in his junior year, where he blocked 75 shots in just 15 games, Williams was dismissed from the Boston College basketball team due to his second suspension in his three year career.  As seen by many draft experts as a lottery talent, he fell to No. 17 because of his character issues.

The New Jersey Nets jumped at the chance to take him, thinking they finally have found the defensive presence they have been lacking ever since trading away Kenyon Martin in 2003-’04.

Williams is blessed with the athleticism that most people dream of. At 6’10” and 235 lbs., with a wing span of 7’5”, he is able to run the floor, has tremendous leaping ability, and is a decent free throw shooter.

Despite having all the physical tools, questions arise when talking about Williams' focus and commitment. He seems to take plays off and his head just doesn’t seem to be in the game all of the time. If only he and Kevin Garnett can get together for a brain transplant.

Williams' first year with the Nets was filled with ups and downs. Due to injuries, he had his chance to start pretty early in the season. He was getting decent minutes from the start of the season, although they were a bit sporadic. What else would one suspect from Coach Lawrence Frank anyway due to his prior reluctance to play newcomers. During one six-game stretch in late February, early March, Williams' mpg were as follows: 5, 2, 6, 1, 7, 4. This was clearly low point.

Williams had his high scoring game against Miami in mid February with 22 and blocked eight shots in a game against Sacramento in late December. In seven games, he blocked four or more shots, showing flashes of an elite shot blocker. His total stats for the 2007-'08 season were: 29 games started, 17.5 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 1.5 bpg.

OK, but with a new season comes experience, right?  Maybe Williams has his head in the right place, and is ready to commit.

Then I read this quote from Coach Frank,  “Sean took a week off last week,” Frank said. “You can see it. He’s going to have to continue to work and get in game rhythm. Some of these other guys have been working out the whole month.”

This is not what I want to hear about Sean. I was hoping to read quotes saying how hard he is working, how he added to his weak offensive game. How he developed a steady jump shot in the offseason and has really worked on defensive positioning to grab more rebounds.

Hopefully his lackluster effort does not continue. With the addition of three new big men in Yi, Lopez, and Anderson along with holdovers Swift, and Boone, Williams is going to have to fight for minutes. He is going to really have to stand out. As it looks right now, he is standing out in the wrong way.

Given his talent, can Williams develop into a player like Josh Smith? Will he even get the same opportunity?

In Smith’s rookie year he started in 59 games, second year, 73 games, third year, 72, and this year, 81. Smith’s minutes increased each year along with his point, rebound, blocks, and steal totals. Well, to be completely accurate, between his third and fourth year, his rebounding and block totals dipped very slightly.

Each season it seems like Smith has added to his offensive game, which like Williams’, primarily consisted of dunks and alley-oops. The Hawks gave Smith the time to develop, and he capitalized on it.

Sean Williams did not have such a luxury as Smith did in his rookie season. The Nets were a team built to win now and were pushing for the playoffs. Because of this makeup, Williams was on a short leash and was not given the chance to work through his mistakes.

With the off season that a roster overhaul, New Jersey is now a completely different team, they are a team built for the future. Consisting mainly of very young, inexperienced players, it looks as if Williams shows his hard work in practice and consistency during games, he should be able to work his way into the starting lineup, for the whole season.

All the physical tools are clearly there but one has to wonder if Williams can make the mental leap to bring his game together.

Williams does not need to look far to see what he could become if he does not put his mental and physical game together. Teammate Stromile Swift, who came very close to being taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in 2000, displayed basically the same skill set. Swift was never able to bring his game together as Smith has. He never really developed into what he was supposed to be.

Swift had a career of highlight dunks and blocks but never worked too much on his offensive game. He was never able to become a steady starter. In his eight year career, Swift has averages of 6.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, and 1 bpg.

It looks like Sean Williams has the choice between two careers, Josh Smith’s or Stromile Swift’s.

For his sake, the Nets' sake, and mine, I hope he chooses the right one.