Derrick Williams certainly had a disappointing rookie season last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, as the lockout eliminated most of the preseason as well as limited practice time between games.
He averaged just 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, certainly not indicative of his talent as the No. 2 overall pick in 2011, but he did see action in all 66 games last season and started 15 contests.
Williams averaged 21.5 minutes per game last season, but his playing time ranged from just over six minutes during a game against the New Jersey Nets in January to over 40 minutes in three March games.
That fluctuation in playing time certainly didn’t help him find his way as an NBA rookie, though Timberwolves’ coach Rick Adelman recently suggested Williams “just floated” at times last season.
This was a critical offseason for Williams as team brass challenged him to improve his craft, and he appears to have responded by losing 15 pounds in preparation for seeing significant playing time at small forward in his second season.
He also had surgery to fix a deviated septum, which should help him breath better as well as improve his endurance. Williams was the subject of trade rumors over the summer and is perhaps the player on the Minnesota roster other teams would be most interested in, but nothing happened there.
Adelman is clearly not entirely sold on Williams as a future building block for the Timberwolves’ franchise, and the team’s additions during the offseason clearly reflect that.
Three veterans-Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger and Dante Cunningham-were all brought in via free agency and trades and all three can play small forward.
Kirilenko will certainly play a lot given his reputation and the investment the team made in him, and it is noteworthy that Budinger played for Adelman when he coached the Houston Rockets.
The Timberwolves also added depth at power forward with the more recent signing of Louis Amundson, so there may not be a lot of room for Williams to play there with Kevin Love unlikely to cede many minutes to anyone.
Reports out of training camp regarding Williams have been positive so far, so he appears to recognize that he will need to ramp up his effort level in order to earn significant, or perhaps just as importantly consistent, minutes this season.
Of all the players in the mix for minutes at small forward Williams is surely the most talented, at least offensively, and that alone may be enough to keep him in the rotation at times.
But it’s clear Adelman will demand maximum effort on both ends of the floor from him, and if Williams does not bring that he may again spend a lot of time in certain games on the bench while Adelman gives veterans he can rely on significant playing time.