As the sound of the final buzzer sounded in the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ 117-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets, third-year forward Derrick Williams looked a little out of place in comparison with most of his teammates. He was still in his warm-ups. While his team fought hard for victory, Williams spent the majority of the evening clapping from the sidelines and cheering on his teammates.
Williams came into the league as one of the most hyped players in the 2011 NBA Draft, but has significantly failed to live up to the expectations that come with being the No. 2 pick in the draft. Entering his third season, he has very modest career numbers of 10.9 ppg and 5.0 rpg in just under 23 minutes a game; not numbers you generally associate with such a high lottery pick. On Friday night, he received his second DNP-CD of the season and, outside of a handful of glimpses this year, has been part of the problem surrounding the Wolves bench.
The issues Williams has had are compounded by the fact the organization doesn’t seem to have a clear footing as to what position they would like him to play. Head coach Rick Adelman has said many times that Derrick is essentially a four and doesn’t like to play him at the three unless he is desperate (and sometimes even then Adelman will avoid playing Williams at SF), but both former and current President’s of Basketball Operations David Kahn and Flip Saunders have at least given the impression they thought Williams had the ability to be a small forward in the NBA.
My feeling is that Williams does not currently posses the passing ability to be a wing in the NBA. An average Assist Percentage for a wing in the NBA is around 10-11 percent and Williams, for his career, sits at 4.5 percent (not to mention he hasn’t recorded a single assist through 10 games). In addition to his very below-average career three-point percentage of 30 percent, I think he is best suited to be a stretch power forward in the NBA. He has the athletic ability and the potential three-point ability to get big men out of lane and create space, but playing behind all-world power forward Kevin Love has left limited minutes available for young Williams.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported earlier this week the Wolves were considering moving Williams to acquire veteran help; and it’s my belief this is the right move. The Wolves have a starting five that could contend with any starting five in the NBA, but their bench is really letting them down.
I think Williams still has the potential to be a productive NBA player, but I don’t believe this is the place for him as the Wolves don’t have the minutes available to develop him, and are not in the market to develop project prospects. They’re in the market to win now.