This is the fifth post in a series here on Howlin’ T-Wolf ranking the Timberwolves roster player-by-player. Ideally, Derek, Tom or Jonah will post a new player everyday for 13 days. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well.
Some mornings, the sun seems a little brighter, the grass seems greener, the valium seems a little more potent (note: I don’t take valium), and I actually decide to be a positive human being. It doesn’t happen often, so don’t get used to it. But I’m about to look at the bright side when discussing Derrick Williams.
There are so many negative things we could discuss about Williams’ first season as a professional basketball player, but most of them have been widely covered already, to the point of redundancy. We could, for example, discuss the fact that Williams shot 28% from above the break 3-point range, and we could groan about the fact that these inefficient shots made up about 23% of his field goal attempts. We could point to the fact that on jumpshots, 63% of all of his FGAs, Williams averaged an ugly .356 percentage from the field, or that he averaged just 0.81 points per possession on spot-up opportunities, or that in isolations he averaged just 0.76 ppp. We could point to these and any other number of disturbing statistics as evidence of Williams’ failings as a rookie, and causes for concern going forward. But we won’t do that. Mostly.
We have a tendency as NBA fans to pigeonhole players into concepts we’ve already seen, rather than remembering that each player is unique. Williams doesn’t fit our traditional definition of either a small forward or a power forward. “If Williams can’t shoot threes as a rookie,” we say, “then he can’t be an effective small forward in the NBA.” “He’s a bust,” we say, after his first NBA season. “He’ll never work out.”
We’ve all thought it at some point, most likely on a night when Williams went 2-9 from the field, including 0-5 from three point range and turned the ball over five times. We’ve assumed he won’t pan out, that the Wolves should just trade him before he can do any more damage to his trade stock, that he was a mistake to draft so high.
Here’s the problem with writing off Minnesota’s #2 pick from the 2011 draft: Derrick Williams, though clearly underwhelming in his first NBA season, just became a legal adult four months ago. And despite the ridiculous amounts of negative attention he has received, there were positive signs as well.
Take his jumpshooting stats. Yes, .356 is rough. Yes, he took way too many jumpers. But Williams also shot .611 from inside the paint, the second most frequent area from which he shot. According to the NBA Stats Cube, 44% of Williams’ shots came within the restricted area, and he made 58% on those shots. These stats don’t point to a player who will settle for bad jumpshots for his entire career. They points to a player who finishes well around the rim, both on the drive and in the post.
I’m not saying that Derrick Williams will become another Dwyane Wade, building an entire offensive repertoire around hoop and making a Hall of Fame career out of it, nor that he will revolutionize the small forward position, nor that he will necessarily become an all-star at some point in his career. All I’m saying is that giving up on Williams after one year would be absolutely foolish, and perhaps just because a player doesn’t fit our traditional definition of a role doesn’t mean that it’s time for us to give up on him.