Normally, I would talk about what has recently happened for both teams coming into the game tonight. I might talk about how the Timberwolves hung with the Pacers for 40 minutes before Indiana put them in the vice and slowly crushed the life out of them. I might want to play up some angle about looking to get back on the right track at home, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But you don’t want to hear that; no, not after the Derrick Williams trade to Sacramento.
Why is this relevant? Well, because it turns out that Luc Mbah a Moute — the player the Timberwolves received in return for Williams — is the common thread between both teams. No, Mbah a Moute never played for the Nuggets, but he almost did.
When Mbah a Moute’s contract was expiring in the summer of 2011, he was sought after as an upcoming perimeter defender in the NBA. Coming off of a rookie deal, he was a restricted free agent and Denver wound up making him an offer. Sure enough, the Bucks couldn’t let him get away, and certainly not at the inexpensive price tag of around $5 million annually. So, the Bucks matched and the Nuggets drafted Quincy Miller and Evan Fournier. Of course, they would trade for Andre Iguodala to be their shutdown perimeter player as a one-year rental. Although, Nuggets fans probably won’t want you asking about that.
What does this mean? Nothing really, but it’s just an observation that Mbah a Moute will make his Timberwolves debut against the team that he nearly landed on two years before. Oh, and the Kings are starting Derrick Williams at small forward, proving that they’re either masochists or they really can’t stomach starting Travis Outlaw or John Salmons any longer. I could see it either way, personally.
If you’ve been on Twitter today and are a Timberwolves fan you’ve undoubtedly heard the Derrick Williams trade rumors. Apparently they spread locally and something was supposed to go down today, and it didn’t Then ESPN’s Marc Stein dropped these nuggets and some validity was added to the speculation:
Timberwolves, I’m told, are in advanced discussions with Sacramento on a deal that would swap Derrick Williams for Luc Mbah A Moute
By dealing Williams for Luc Mbah a Moute, the Timberwolves would get the consistent perimeter defender that the lost when Andrei Kirilenko headed east for Brooklyn. Mbah a Moute, averaging just 4.4 points per game, will never be accused of being a great scorer, but will score in the ways that Williams scored best: within the flow of the offense as a cutter/spot-up guy. In fact, MySynergySports.com says that he has been above average in those categories so far this season.
Mbah a Moute has been damn-near shutdown on the wing so far, holding opponents to just 39.5 percent shooting and a strong 0.84 points per possession. For comparison’s sake, Corey Brewer is averaging 0.80 ppp and with Mbah a Moute, the two would combine to give the Timberwolves another defender on the perimeter. Now, would you ever play the two together? Probably not too much since they could leave the Timberwolves with too few scoring options on the court, but that might depend on the lineup. However, if they did play them both, Mbah a Moute has shown to be a better spot up shooter and Brewer a better transition player, so that could work; the only way to really know is to try it out.
For Williams, he would get the change of scenery that he needs. After a relatively productive season when he was asked to step up, his minutes have fallen and so has his production. Or his production is down because of his minutes…either way. With a healthy Kevin Love and Dante Cunningham, the Timberwolves just don’t seem to have a use for Williams. And without a superstar at either forward spot, Williams will have the opportunity to earn all of the minutes that he desires. Which is good, because he is a useful player when he is used right and can even be a capable defender for spurts.
Williams’ production has been concerning, but that’s more of an effect of the lack of playing time so far. The last time Williams has been asked to play this few minutes was probably, well, never. So, the adjustment to 14 minutes per game has made it difficult for him to get a feel for the game and in rhythm. Williams’ percentages have fallen from respectable averages of around .430 percent and .333 percent from three last season, to .335 and .133 this season, despite taking fewer threes per 36 minutes. For Derrick, he’ll be in a more advantageous position competing with Patrick Patterson and Jason Thompson for minutes instead of Love and Cunningham. If he can someday prove to be a serviceable small forward, he’ll only be competing with Travis Outlaw and John Salmons, so this will be a good opportunity for him.
From day one it seemed like it was going to be a challenge for Derrick Williams to succeed here. There was always one too many players in front of him and the Timberwolves tried to get him on the floor where and when they could. Last year, Cunningham joining the team immediately seemed like it was going to push him out of the rotation, and it did. This season, Chase Budinger came back and Robbie Hummel impressed Rick Adelman enough to earn his favor. Adelman spoke of Hummel on Media Day as a solid player that never tried to do anything that he couldn’t do, which was a fault of Derrick’s at times. This isn’t too say that Williams didn’t put in the work, because he absolutely did by losing weight, trying to work on his game and exerting effort on defense. This worked last season and Adelman praised him for it, but it appears this was always going to be his role on this team had everyone been healthy as they are now. It’s just where Derrick is at this point in his career, and he can have success in the NBA, but it just won’t be here.
As Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears reports, the deal will go through tomorrow pending physicals and Derrick Williams’ time as a Timberwolf will be done. Sacramento isn’t traditionally known as a hotbed for player development, but DeMarcus Cousins has made strides and Williams’ attitude and work ethic gives him as good of a chance for success as any. If this goes through, expect it to be a straight deal with no picks or cash being exchanged.
Trade sending D Williams to SAC from MIN for Luc Mbah a Moute to be completed if latter passes physical Tue due to knee concerns,source says
Welcome to the second annual #TwolfRank. It’s one of our favorite times of the year, to say the least. Here is the seventh part in this roster-long series and we are officially halfway through. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf), Tom (@Tom_NBA) and Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) on Twitter as well to partake in the fun.
I really can’t believe this is my first time writing about Derrick Williams this summer. Especially since I seemingly spent all last summer debating his weight and what fucking position he was going to playing during the upcoming season. Which of course went from me saying that I didn’t see him being a small forward now based on what I had seen, to what some interpreted as: “Why do u h8 him? He’s still young and can git better…looser!”
Which of course led to many exasperated sighs and facepalms as I had to explain that I was not holding a referendum on a player’s career after just one season, but that he wasn’t showing that he could be a small forward right now. I mean, small forwards typically have to shoot from distance, which he struggled to do in his rookie year and that’s all I had to go on. And at that time he looked like a better power forward, so that’s what I said and– my word, why was this so important to people anyway? If he’s good who cares where he plays?
I never said he could never, ever, ever be one no matter how hard he tried. Hell, he could become a firefighter, mailman or own a landscape company. Maybe he could even be a small forward. Or still a power forward.
It really became the epitome of an internet argument: I get asked a question about the present and give an answer about the present that magically morphs into a conversation about what Derrick will be doing in five years. It’s like the summer heat had gotten to everyone, causing a surge in heat stroke cases as reading comprehension levels plummeted.
I’m not saying that it wasn’t my comprehension that was in question, either, because it’s entirely possible.
And stop telling me young players get better, because I know that. Besides, that wasn’t even the question.
Really, I had no idea and neither did the people asking me had no idea if he’ll ever be one. But that stopped no one from wanting to launch a full-scale debate over it. The funny thing is that I spoke to Demetri McCamey who was on the Timberwolves’ summer league team and he re-buffed me when I asked if he was a point guard, shooting guard or combo guard. His answer: They, positions, don’t matter– it’s all basketball. You may enter a set at a certain spot, but as the play unfurls, your role changes. And, consequently, shooting guards, power forwards, small forwards…etc. all become irrelevant and things like Basketball IQ and a player’s ability to adapt to the game situation become far more important.
Anyway, Derrick’s rookie season left us with more questions than answers, which is not exactly what you want out of a number two overall pick.
The first question was his shooting, and really his ability to shoot efficiently from anywhere. No, really:
As you can see he struggled as a rookie from everywhere. Remember, .632 percent at the rim only sounds high; league average is typically right around .700 percent. Most of Williams’ struggles were attributable to him being as to dribble or create a shot for himself in any manner. Which is also usually a characteristic of an NBA small forward, as well as being able to stretch the floor. And as a result he barely managed to eke out a .400% field goal percentage — which is still bad for a power forward, even, if we’re still talking about positions — in addition to not being able to shoot .300 percent from three.
In season two we needed to see some improvement for Williams for the good of the team, and it came, as incrementally as possible.
The first thing that immediately stands out is the fact that he managed to shoot a lower field goal percentage within three feet of the rim despite taking 100 more attempts from that spot, which is impressive in its own way. He even managed to get worse from within 3-10 feet of the hoop which, again, is amazing since these are supposed to be higher percentage, ergo, easier shots.
You’d be more upset if he didn’t improve his midrange game up to a respectable near-forty percent, up from barely-thirty in his rookie season. The same thing for the next two spots– improvement — most notably his three point percentage from year 1 to year 2. All of this is good and encouraging for a player with aspirations of being a perimeter player someday. Except the missing shots within three feet of the basket thing; quit bricking dunks!
And did you notice?
I know you saw it.
You didn’t? I mentioned it earlier.
Last season the Timberwolves figured that less of Derrick handling the ball and being asked to make something happen with that ball, the better. A lot more of his shots were assisted in his sophomore year, and I mean a lot– in some cases 20-30 percent, especially from 16 ft.-<3pt. This means that Derrick was employed as a catch-and-shoot player instead of being a creator. On top of that Derrick also did well as a cutter and in transition, managing to be efficient and keep the offense moving. Basically this is a nice way of saying that he played best when he played within the offense, which is like calling a quarterback a game manager. It’s a compliment, even if a little backhanded.
In fact, in Isolation plays last season, Williams shot just .295 percent and just a 0.64 points per possessions in such situations (per MySynergySports.com), ranking 182 in the NBA. Even in post-ups, he managed a 0.71 PPP and made just a third of his shots, good for 132 in the entire league.
Even the fact that Derrick was asked to create less this season led to a slightly lower Turnover Percentage despite winding up with a higher Usage Rating. Ball-handling is another area he will have to continue to improve upon, but in the mean time he can still be used effectively in other ways that ISO’s and Post-Ups. This is perhaps the most encouraging sign for a player who had efficiency concerns coming into the season and hopefully this trend will carry into year three.
To review, Derrick passively involved in the offense, good; Derrick actively involved, not-so-good. Yet, anyway.
The other issue was his defense, which he worked hard to address in the offseason and it wound up paying off. No matter which category it is, Derrick just about improved in all of them, according to Synergy. As a rookie, he had a 0.89 ppp against Isolations, which became a 0.70 last season. He also improved in hand-offs and both pick ‘n roll man and ball handler situations. As a whole he dropped his ppp from 0.95 to 0.91, which is notable improvement.
Although points per possession is not kind to Williams in the post, his post defense last season is actually defensible, no pun intended. There was a slight uptick in that metric as a whole and his Defensive Rating showed little if any improvement, but it reflects in his Defensive Win Shares as well as the court. See, with the plethora of injuries the team suffered, Williams was often asked to guard bigger and more athletic players, like the Detroit’s Greg Monroe. This is problematic because no matter how much you try, it will be tough if you’re less athletic, shorter and weaker than the person backing you down. And often times Williams would body up his opponent on the block properly only to have them back him down and flip the ball in over his head. The team tried to send help, but that’s risky to do for an entire game and tough to do when you send that help after the opponent picks up his dribble. Really, that’s a matchup that Williams shouldn’t have to see again unless there are more injuries, which there shouldn’t be.
Williams made some good strides last season, certainly more deserving of this ranking. Still, he hasn’t truly carved out a role yet, but it appears he’s something. Whether he’s a power or small forward not only doesn’t matter too much, but it’s also way too early to tell. While Williams needs to continue to improve the things he did last season, he needs to continue to do so while also improving his other weaknesses. For now, #8 is fair for Williams for now. Maybe not for always, but for now.
@OmidFerdowsi: @DerekJamesNBA Some lions need more time than others to adapt to their new environment. I think he’s finally adapted to his and is ready.
@88mugsy88: @DerekJamesNBA he can dunk two handed, not one handed though
@88mugsy88: @DerekJamesNBA he likes shoes
@Moesquare: @DerekJamesNBA He has a D in his name, and D is for Dunk
Williams was the nation’s most efficient forward in ISOs, spot-ups and pick-and-rolls, and was fourth-most efficient in the post. He really can do everything — and the fact that he didn’t truly break out as a star until this past season as a sophomore suggests he may be far from hitting his ceiling. I wouldn’t want to be the GM who passed on him.
Jenkins’ profile isn’t perfect. He’s older than most draft prospects, at 22, and has realized his potential. He’s smaller than most NBA shooting guards and he’s unlikely to transition into a pure-point role. He doesn’t have the speed or the athleticism of some of the guards projected to go at the top of the first round. What he does know how to do is create shots off the dribble going in both directions, knock down shots with defenders attached to him and put up points in a highly efficient manner. He spent his college career outside of the major-conference spotlight, and never played in an NCAA tournament, but he’s worthy of a guaranteed contract. His statistical resume is too strong to ignore.
There’s no denying the year that Williams had in Arizona. In fact, his numbers speak for themselves but when you combine them with a solid off-court personalty with an intelligent head on his shoulders, it’s becoming that much more appealing.
So here’s to a swing in my beliefs: Take Williams at 2, ship Beasley out.
Reasons to Howl: Derrick Williams is as athletic as they come. Not to mention he’s got bulk, height and explosiveness, which turns his athleticism into fear for all those looking to stop him. We’ve all been witness to David Kahn and his non-stop search for athleticism and length and Williams fits that prototype almost better than anyone in the draft at his position. Wait, what position does he play again? That’s why Williams could very well be highly coveted. You see, Williams played a bulk of his minutes at the three in college, which allows other bigs to step in and solidify defense down low. But when coach feels the offense is lagging, they have the ability to slide Williams to the four, where he can bang with the best of them all while dominating them with his sheer speed advantage.
The most surprising dimension to Williams’ game is his high shooting percentage. He shot 59% from the field and showed how he thrives in isolation situations. Whether he strides to the rack or settles for a jumper, he gets his looks and hits them often. Even more impressive is his true shooting percentage of 69%, which ranked 4th for all the NCAA. The Wolves need shooters, and efficient ones at that. Can it get much better than that for a guy who only demanded 10 attempts a game? Don’t think so.
Reasons to Worry: We’ve heard this before, right? A strong, athletic stretch four who seems to have the talent to take over games, just as Williams did against Duke in the second half of their epic Sweet Sixteen matchup, and also has the talent to to be in, or near, the top of the league in scoring. With Michael Beasley already holding down his position, is there really a need for a similar player to back him up? Not exactly. Although the need for depth, and a potential replacement for Martell Webster, would be great, it’s not amongst the top needs for the Wolves with a top lottery pick when other weaknesses are painfully glaring.
Also, the Wolves are looking to upgrade their bottom-dwelling defense in terms of efficiency and Williams won’t help there. He’s a little undersized to guard the post as well as snag defensive boards and too slow laterally to stick to other small forwards.
Benefits to the Wolves: Drafting a player at a position that’s already filled never seems wise, but you don’t know David Kahn. Pending the Wolves’ position after the lottery, the Wolves could very well be picking 2nd or even 3rd, which leaves Williams staring Kahn and co. straight in the face. Beasley on the roster or not, they take him and look for competition come training camp time. Perhaps the threat of Williams vying for a starting job on a team with no solidified starters, except for Love, lights a fire under Beasley and he then evolves into the player we all thought he’d be coming into the league as a rookie. Worst comes to worst, they end up being the same type of player and we send one of them away for a veteran leader instead. There really doesn’t seem like a wrong answer in this one.
The Howlin’ Verdict: Say we lose on the lottery and pick at either 2 or 3, you still take Williams. No regrets, no sulking. Best. Player. Available. A team as bad as the Wolves have no right to draft for need at that point, especially in such a weak draft.