Derek Answers Your Derrick Williams Questions

No matter where he plays it seems Derrick Williams will be fighting for minutes. Can he develop in Minnesota?

As I predicted my post on Derrick Williams generated some strong opinions in the comment section. Normally I would respond with a comment of my own, but in this case a short-form response wouldn’t be enough. So I’m taking the time to answer them properly and more thoroughly with this post. One of the commenters, iamgeneoh, I know. We’ve played hoops together a couple times and have had several hoops discussions over the years, so I respect his opinion. I don’t know the other commenter, but in no way am I doing this to put anyone on blast.

We’ll start with Gene’s comment:

Ok, if you are just going to forget about his 4th quarter ill do the same and forget about the beginning of the game and only go by the 4th where we was hitting 3s and driving at will… By viewing it like that he looks like he can play the 3 and would succeed. You can skew stat lines to prove any point that you want. Last night I saw a player that struggled at 3 and saw a player that succeeded at 3. You don’t think he can learn from ak, Roy and bud? Can develop the skills it takes to play the 3? He obviously has the drive and wants to play the 3. From all accounts he works hard an is dedicated to his craft. Have you never started something in your life that you weren’t good at but over time learned and became good at it? Writing, designing, photography, building, etc. these are all crafts that take time to develop just like learning a new position in the nba.

Believe me, I know better than to skew statlines to make myself look better. Perhaps even more damning to Williams I was using the numbers we have from his two seasons in Arizona, his rookie season, and what we’ve seen-to-date in Summer League and preseason. Aside from his sophomore year at Arizona in which he shot a ridiculous .568% from long, he’s never topped the .268% he shot as a rookie last season. And less than twenty seven percent is atrocious, but he keeps firing away. 

Can he learn to? He could, sure. But is this the team that he’s going to be able to do that on? Consider the following.

In the past few months the Timberwolves have done the following:

–          Traded the 18th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft for veteran Chase Budinger.

–          Traded Wes Johnson and a future 1st for a pair of future 2nd round picks.

–          Opted to sign Lou Amundson over Hassan Whiteside because they want players with NBA experience and don’t need any more projects. Those are the team’s words, not mine.

Also, have you seen their payroll situation for the next four years? There’s nothing long-term about it. Seriously. To begin the 2015-’16 season there are zero guaranteed contracts on the books for that season as of today. The only deals that could be there are the Ricky Rubio’s and Derrick Williams’ qualifying offer and Kevin Love’s player option. That’s it. No Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic (As of now), Alexey Shved, Brandon Roy…etc. Heck, not even Rick Adelman is under contract for that season.

It’s weird to think, but the Timberwolves are no longer in the player development business. The aim is to do as much as possible in these next few seasons and then decide to re-tool or have the ability to commit to a full-on rebuild once again since they have no guaranteed money slated for that season.

What does that mean for Williams? Well, that may mean that this may not be the best place for him to learn a new position, especially with the players you mentioned on the roster. And when you factor in the fact that he’s earning about $5 million in 2013, $5.3 million in 2014 and $6.6 million, that’s a lot for a 3rd option at that position.

You’re right, he could learn from watching those other guys play, but he’s only going to get so much better watching; he’s going to need the minutes too. It’s just like I can only get so much better as a writer by reading other’s work without being given the opportunity to apply it, and that’s true for Williams. And that’s what I meant by a trade may be mutually beneficial for both Derrick and the team. Derrick gets the playing time to develop and the Timberwolves get a piece they can use now.

Which brings me to Locker’s comment:

iamgeneoh, you are so right!  I feel like oceanary, howlin, and Zgoda are looking for ways to get rid of DWill on this squad.  Let’s let Adelman find a role for DWill with all these new additions this year.  I can see DWill being another Microwave Vinny Johnson…instant offense guy off the bench.  Let’s not worry what position he plays.  I think the first preseason game was tied up when DWill came in the game, and immediately we were up 9 in a couple minutes of DWill time.  Didn’t play in the 2nd half because Adelman wanted to get the other guys in and we were rolling…no problem.

I’m going to start off by saying that it should say something when people like Oceanary and Jerry Zgoda keep saying these things because they are plugged into the team, have greater access, and know people, so it’s not as simple to dismiss them and say they’re just ” looking for ways to get rid of D-Will”. Aside from their info, they can also look at the roster and see that, “Oh. They brought in guys who can shoot, hustle and can play defense (All things the Wolves need from Williams), that’s not good news for Derrick.”

It’s not as if it’s personal; Derrick seems like a hard-working and nice guy with an awesome dog. And you can’t dislike someone with an awesome dog. Wondering how Derrick fits on this current team and if he may fit better elsewhere isn’t unfair.

Look at last night’s game that one media member called Derrick’s game “One of those nights Adelman talks about…” and where he shot 0-8 from the floor with just two three-point attempts, and reveals probably the bigger issue where Williams gets frustrated and coasts through games. That’s why Dante Cunningham and Lou Amundson were brought in: they play their tails off every night. Otherwise, it was one preseason game in which the entire bench struggled for the most part, and Williams going 0-6 from the paint probably isn’t going to happen. But it is, if not just a little, concerning that Williams could drop 25 one night and then not connect on a single field goal the next while having his effort questioned.

At this point would you be willing to cut Chase Budinger’s minutes (Who by all accounts has looked phenomenal thus far), Andrei Kirilenko’s, or Dante Cunningham’s in favor of developing Williams even though he may not give the Timberwolves the best chance to win every night?

I’m not sure that I would.

This is where I raise the question again: is this the best place for Derrick to learn to play small forward? With Kevin Love at power forward most times, will he even get the minutes at power forward to take the next step at that position? If not, would you sacrifice Nikola Pekovic’s minutes to move Love to center just to get Derrick his minutes? Is that what’s really best for this team?

The questions above are all legitimate questions that you really have to ask with Williams right now.

This is why I’ve used the phrase “mutually beneficial” when I’ve discussed moving Derrick. It may be what’s best for both the player and the team. The main thing Derrick needs to work on now is really giving that effort every night and keep improving his shot selection no matter where he plays. Yet, even though he’s best suited to play the power forward, there really aren’t minutes available, and it’s tough to give him someone else’s minutes at the small forward while trying to win now just to get him that experience.

Am I making more sense now?

 

You can follow Derek on Twitter: @DerekJamesNBA

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