The Minnesota Timberwolves must decide whether to extend Derrick Williams‘ contract by October 31, but barring some unbelievable play during the Timberwolves’ preseason games, Williams’ contract will not be extended. The Timberwolves would have to pay Williams $6.3 million next year, which is a bit steep for a player who has yet to carve out his position in the NBA. Despite not quite living up to his draft pick, Williams improved quietly in his second year and put up decent numbers, though not very efficiently. If he can establish himself as a legitimate sixth man or starting small forward this year, he may earn another contract with the Timberwolves.
Williams scored efficiently at the University of Arizona, where, as a senior, he converted 59.5 percent of his field goals and shot 56.8 percent from three on 74 attempts (per sports-reference.com). In the NBA, though, he has shot poorly. Williams shot more in his second season, and his field goal percentage increased from 41.2 percent to 43 percent. The increase is nice, but those numbers are poor for a power forward, even a backup.
Williams was okay at the rim, where he took most of his shots, and he was okay from distance. Both of these are good things, as that’s where Williams should be taking his shots. He also took way too many long twos, more than his close and mid-range shots combined, and missed most of them. Still, his percentages there weren’t as bad as when he shot from close. Williams shot just 19.1 percent from three to ten feet (per basketballreference.com). This indicates he struggled shooting over bigger power forwards down low. This has been a major failure in Williams’ game at the NBA level. He hasn’t shown that he can play bigger than his size as a power forward, but he also hasn’t taken his shooting or speed to the next level to play small forward.
Williams came into camp lighter, meaning he is trying to play small forward. With Chase Budinger out, he could get plenty of minutes at the 3, where he’d be competing for playing time with Corey Brewer and Shabazz Muhammad instead of Kevin Love. Williams hasn’t played well as a small forward in the NBA, but he considers himself a wing player who can post up if necessary. Consider Williams’ play while Budinger is out an audition for his lighter, quicker new body. It’s doubtful that he’ll be able to beat many players off the dribble –nearly all of Williams’ scores were assisted last year– but if his shot has improved and he’s able to get some good looks, he can improve his efficiency.
Williams will be playing for a contract. Whether it’s for the Wolves or another team will depend on his play and the Timberwolves’ play. If the Timberwolves miss the playoffs again big changes are likely, and the Wolves most likely won’t want to pay Williams unless he really improves. Plenty of other teams will be watching Williams, though, as the No. 2 pick in the 2011 still has plenty of potential at just 22 years old. If the Timberwolves struggle, look for them to move Williams before the trade deadline instead of letting him walk in free agency.