Few expected the Minnesota Timberwolves to pick up their team option on Derrick Williams’ contract. The option gives Williams an extra year in Minnesota at $6.3 million.
However, Williams has been the subject of trade rumors since his rookie year, and they won’t stop now. A trade is still very possible as the team receiving Williams would now have him under contract beyond this season. Whether Williams remains a Timberwolf or not depends largely on his and Shabazz Muhammad’s play at small forward this year.
Williams is clearly a talented player. After dominating during his two years at the University of Arizona, Williams was picked second in the draft after Kyrie Irving. Now Williams has played two years in the NBA without leaving much of an impression. His’ problem is the classic tweener issue, meaning his size and speed leave him somewhere in between a small forward and a power forward.
When Kevin Love went down last year, Williams actually stepped up and played well as the Wolves’ starting power forward. Love is healthy this year, though, and is considered the best power forward in the league, so Williams wouldn’t play much as his backup. Williams reported to training camp lighter with intentions of playing small forward this year.
With Chase Budinger’s injury, Corey Brewer has been projected to start at the three spot, but Williams started the Wolves’ last preseason game at alongside Love and could take Brewer’s starting spot if he plays well.
The Timberwolves drafted another small forward in Muhammad this summer, and it’s possible that he competes for the starting role too. Even if he doesn’t and simply looks more promising than Williams has, it may bode poorly for Williams’ future with the Wolves.
While $6.3 million isn’t an exorbitant amount of money for a talented young player in a sixth man role, the Wolves would certainly like their former no. 2 pick to start consistently. Williams has had a few good games at small forward this preseason, but has been inconsistent. If he can play like a starting small forward this season, expect him to stick around. If he can’t and someone else can, expect him to be shopped for a veteran forward or future asset.