SLAM x Panini Rookie Spotlight: Ziaire Williams

SLAM x Panini Rookie Spotlight: Ziaire Williams

“y’all still acting like ZW8 ain’t out here huh? smh.” 

Superstar Ja Morant tweeted that just a few weeks in the past. “ZW8” refers to rookie Ziaire Williams, who wears No. 8 for the Grizzlies. The tweet alludes to the truth that Williams was not chosen to take part within the Rising Stars Game at All-Star Weekend in Cleveland—a transparent snub, in Morant’s opinion. ZW8 has been a starter for Memphis—among the best groups within the League at 43-21—because the starting of January. 

As a part of the three-team commerce involving Steven Adams, the Grizzlies additionally acquired the rights to the No. 10 decide within the 2021 Draft, the place they landed Williams. The 20-year-old didn’t have an distinctive freshman 12 months at Stanford, however along with his dimension (6-9) and athleticism, it was straightforward to see his potential. He developed a popularity as a strong shooter in highschool, when he was a teammate of Bronny James at Sierra Canyon and the No. 8 total prospect in his class (the highest-ranked recruit ever to decide to Stanford). That didn’t carry over to varsity—Williams shot simply 37 % from the sector and 29 % from three for the Cardinals. Still, he displayed a powerful means to attain in any respect three ranges. And he sometimes did stuff like this:  

Williams was within the Grizzlies’ rotation from day one. His taking pictures has been erratic, because it was at Stanford, nevertheless it’s clear that the rookie is getting an increasing number of snug with the circulation of the NBA. His confidence is rising. He is discovering rhythms. He is determining how one can impression profitable.

Head coach Taylor Jenkins likes Ziaire’s versatility on each ends. Offensively, he spreads the ground for Morant and runs with him in transition (the 2 have shortly constructed sturdy chemistry). Defensively, he can guard a number of positions, utilizing his 6-10 wingspan to be disruptive (he has already matched up with Stephen Curry, Khris Middleton, Brandon Ingram, Luka Doncic and extra elite scorers). Coaches and teammates have praised his work ethic and willingness to be taught.

The end result? Williams has steadily improved and his position has steadily elevated. He has been within the beginning lineup for 23 video games, 16 of which the Grizzlies have received. In the month of February, he averaged 9.7 factors and a pair of.3 rebounds per sport, taking pictures 58 % from the sector and 46 % from three. He put up a career-high 21 factors (on 9/11 taking pictures), 4 rebounds and three assists in a 120-108 victory over the Knicks on Feb. 2.   

“He just has continued to work, continued to believe in himself, started playing with confidence,” Morant mentioned about Williams. “He knows the work he puts in. He knows the shots he can make. He knows what he’s capable of. And now everybody’s getting to see it and I’m proud of it. I’m a proud big brother!”

Three weeks later, on the highway in opposition to Minnesota, Williams went off for 21 factors once more (on 7/11 taking pictures)—this time in a 119-114 loss. 

“I think the number one thing is we want him to play to his strengths,” Jenkins advised reporters afterwards. “The way he can run the floor, he’s got a great connection with the guards, especially Ja—all those transition lobs and easy looks in transition. He started off shooting it well [from the] corner. Not so great from the wings. So we told him, just keep putting in the work, man. Keep putting in the work. He’s getting a lot more comfortable with the NBA line all around. Then his ability to shoot off the bounce is at a really high level—we knew that coming out of college. Getting in there, midrange pull-ups, but then getting to the free throw line, knocking down big free throws on small volume, but those are big shots for him. So he’s expanding his game, not just being a guy who just stands in the corner. I’ll also say defensively expanding his game. Tonight’s a great learning lesson where he can be better, we can be better. But he always responds and brings a better effort the next time.” 

Jenkins opted to go along with John Konchar over Williams within the fourth quarter of that sport for defensive functions. Williams had, in response to his coach, simply made “too many mistakes” in coverages.

The rook understood. He likes to be coached that means—to be held accountable, in order that he can proceed to develop.

“I’ll never forget my first press conference with the Grizzlies, I promised [Jenkins] that I was going to give him everything that I had, and I told him that I want him to coach me as hard as possible,” Williams mentioned. “Constructive criticism—that’s the one means I can get higher, that’s the one means the crew can get higher.

“I definitely [welcome it] from all of the coaches, not even just Coach Taylor,” he added, “to push me to my limits and beyond.”

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