Since being taken number two overall in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves, Derrick Williams has largely underachieved. Certainly, inconsistent playing time has been a factor due to playing the same position as All-Star forward Kevin Love, but his lack of consistent effort hasn’t done him any favors. With Love re-injuring his right hand last week, he will again be sidelined and Williams should get a bigger opportunity now. Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman has suggested as much via the Minneapolis Star Tribune, saying Williams “better be” prepared for an opportunity with Love likely out for 4-6 weeks once again.
Williams is averaging 8.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in 26 games played this season (nine starts), as he has only played more than 20 minutes in a game once since before Thanksgiving despite injuries continuing to thin Minnesota’s depth. But he was productive in the team’s most recent game last Saturday night against the Portland Trail Blazers, going 6-for-10 from the floor (2-for-3 on three-pointers) and scoring 18 points in just under 18 minutes off the bench.
I think Williams should start the Timberwolves’ next game Tuesday night at home against the Atlanta Hawks. If nothing else, he will get a significant challenge being matched up with Hawks power forward Al Horford, who is one of the best young players at that position in the league. So if Williams lacks assertiveness, as he has far too often through his first two seasons, it will show quickly and further put him in Adelman’s doghouse.
Williams may never get a better chance to prove he can be more than an underachieving pro than right now. Of course the Timberwolves could wind up trading him at some point and going elsewhere where the path to playing time is more clear may do him a lot of good. But I think now is the time for Williams to seize what is shaping up to be a big opportunity over the next month or more. Otherwise, he could wind up on the fast track to becoming another draft day miss for the Timberwolves and one of the bigger draft busts in recent league history.