Bobcats 101: Why a Derrick Williams to Charlotte Trade Makes Little Sense

As many of you reading this probably know, I took up covering the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire this season in addition to my work here and at Hardwood Paroxysm. Even when I first started at Rufus I always saw Bobcats fans clamoring for Derrick Williams. And tonight I’m seeing Timberwolves fans trying to figure out how they can trade Derrick to Charlotte to get the number four pick. Clearly these two fan bases have one thing in common: They know nothing about the other team. But since we’re a Timberwolves blog I’m going to talk about why the Bobcats wouldn’t do it– consider this Bobcats 101 or something.

 

First off, let’s examine the Bobcats’ roster a little since I received many questions about this.

PG: Kemba Walker/Ramon Sessions

SG: Gerald Henderson/Ben Gordon

SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist/Henderson

PF: Byron Mullens/Bismack Biyombo/Josh McRoberts/Jeff Adrien

C: Brendan Haywood/Mullens/Gana Diop (You don’t know what this was like, you don’t know the things I’ve seen!)

At first glance you may notice that many players  on this list are relatively undersized for their position, especially in the backcourt. In fact, the Bobcats played small quite frequently all year. Secondly, Kemba and MKG were lottery picks in recent years, so they’re not going to add another player at their position to take minutes away from them. Third, they’re thin on depth at the four and five, and they were also a very poor shooting team.

Detach from the Timberwolves fan mindset for a minute and think, do you think Derrick Williams would help this team? No, he’s an under-sized tweener-forward that is also a recent lottery pick. This isn’t to say that I don’t think Derrick has a purpose, because he does, it just isn’t best-realized the Bobcats. And since it takes two sides to make a deal, this is a problem.

Certainly, the Bobcats would not like to cut into the precious minutes needed for MKG to develop, but Derrick and MKG both thrived in similar areas this season according to MySynergySports:

- In pick ‘n’roll man situations Williams posted .98 points per possession (“PPP”; 1.00 being average) to MKG’s .94 PPP.

- Hand-off plays: Williams: 1.11 PPP v.s. MKG: 1.18

- In plays as the cutter: Williams: 1.06 vs MKG: 1.19

- Off of offensive rebounds: Williams: 1.03 vs MKG: 1.18

- In transition, each player posted 1.18 ppp as well.

If you think their strengths are similar, they each have similar weaknesses, too. It’s kind of weird.

- Both were terrible post-up players this past season, meaning that they could not play together from a skill set standpoint, as well as each player being 6’7-6’8 and 230 pounds. Williams averaged .71 ppp to MKG’s .76 ppp and each player shot under forty percent on those plays.

- Neither player was particularly strong trying to create in ISO situations, evidenced by Williams’ .64 ppp to MKG’s .83

- Nor was either player very good working off of screens, since Williams’ .73 ppp in those situations was about .30 points higher than MKG’s. This is surprising because Williams rated as average-to-above average in pick n rolls, but maybe those two things are completely unrelated and I’m only imagining there should be a correlation.

And here’s a chart from Basketball-Reference.com:

Chart courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
Chart courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com

See, see?! Even with the most basic statistical metrics show they are very similar, with neither player really showing that they’re truly better than the other. Although, considering MKG was the youngest player in his draft class, and his defensive ability not reflected by stats that take into team effort like Defensive Rating, it may be fair to say that MKG would be more worth the Bobcats’ time right now. Especially since MKG is currently a better passer and has a more defined position than “off-of-the-bench-scorer.”

And since you couldn’t play them together either, a trade to Charlotte makes no sense. As far as size go, the Bobcats need more in the frontcourt. Diop, Mullens and Haywood are each seven-feet, but Diop is retiring; Mullens is Mullens; and Haywood is unlikely to be a long-term fixture. The next tallest player is McRoberts at 6’10 before the rest of their centers and power forwards check in between 6’9 and 6’7. Derrick being listed around 6’8-6’9 does not help them, and as we covered above, he would play behind MKG at the three. They need length and size at the 4-5, and Derrick just doesn’t help them with that need.

For now, Derrick is better suited with the Timberwolves. He’s an average rebounder, has a low turnover percentage and now exerts some energy on defense. With the Timberwolves, he can be a successful player because of his productivity in pick n rolls and while he isn’t exactly great in them, he can spot up well enough while he continues to improve his shot. So, Williams has a role on this team and dealing him for an unknown commodity like a 19-year old rookie who may wind up glued to the end of Rick Adelman’s bench.

It’s more likely that if they do make a move it will be one of JJ Barea and Luke Ridnour, but Flip did not sound optimistic about their ability to package one of those players with the nine pick to move up.