With a little more than a month to go before the 2019 NBA Draft, the internet is replete with Mock Drafts galore. And many of them have UNC’s Nassir Little being taken somewhere in the 9th to 17th range (depending, of course, on which teams land specific picks). This puts Little in the position of being potentially the second UNC Sixth Man to be taken as a lottery pick. With that in mind, let’s consider of the first: National Champion and Immortal Duke Killer Marvin Williams.
Like Nas, Marvin arrived in Chapel Hill as a hyped freshman recruit but was forced to come off the bench due to the veteran talent already in place. Sean May and Jawed Williams were established starters, just like Cam Johnson and Luke Maye. As our own Chad Floyd discussed earlier this season, the two players had pretty similar freshman campaigns, and both came on strong as the season progressed, on both sides of the ball.
Marvin, of course, enjoyed more postseason success and a more iconic moment:
At the conclusion of the 2005 Championship season, Marvin declared early for the NBA Draft and was taken with the #2 overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks, behind only Andrew Bogut. It was who he came before, though, that people remember: The next two picks were Deron Williams and Chris Paul. Both went on to be All-Stars and, in the case of Paul, a future Hall of Famer. Williams’ selection, one that banked on potential over finished product, has been derided in Atlanta ever since.
This is tremendously unfair to Marvin (after he’s not the freakin’ GM): He has enjoyed a very solid 14-year career, including in Atlanta, where he was a regular starter on a team that made the playoffs five years in a row. In fact, Marvin has been a starter in every season he has played in, for three different teams (Utah and Charlotte being the others). On top of that, he has been able to adapt his playing style to the changing nature of the modern game. He was initially scouted as a physically gifted PF who could run the floor and handle the ball, but he has developed into a strong stretch 4, shooting 35% or better from the 3 in each of his last 6 seasons. There is a long graveyard of NBA players who couldn’t change up their game for the more perimeter-oriented league. Marvin will not be buried among them.
But what he is known for even more than that is his defense and on-court leadership. In Charlotte, he has been by his coaches described as the “Quarterback” of the Hornet defense and has been the most reliable veteran on the roster. He was named Best Teammate by the squad in 2017. His current contract is a four year $54.5 million deal signed back in 2016. Fourteen years and counting, a regular starting job, six seasons in the playoffs, and still making more than 80% of the league (Marvin is currently 78th in annual salary).
If Nassir Little enjoys a career like that, he’ll have cause to be a very happy man. And if the Hawks fans are still salty about Marvin’s selection, they better not think about the next year...when they took Shelden Williams with the #5 pick.