Is Minnesota’s Derrick Williams A Bust?
At the 2011 NBA Draft, Derrick Williams made his case for going number one overall, but the Cleveland Cavaliers wisely selected the consensus first overall pick, Kyrie Irving, and Williams slid to the Minnesota Timberwolves at number two.
Williams had two impressive college seasons at Arizona and had the length, strength, speed and athleticism that NBA teams look for when drafting a forward. Unfortunately, Williams was stuck behind soon to be two-time All-Star Kevin Love so the minutes available at his natural power forward position during his rookie season were going to be slim. This season, however, Love broke his hand in a freak preseason accident, giving Williams his chance to start.
“[Williams] has a chance right now to start and last year he didn’t have that opportunity except for a few times,” said Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman.
“It sucks that one of our All-Stars isn’t playing,” Williams said. “But other people have to step up and they called my name.”
This year is different in other ways for Williams as well. His rookie campaign was impacted by the lockout and this year’s team has far more veteran support for the young players to learn from.
“A lot more practice time,” Williams said. “That’s one thing. We can mesh together a little bit more. We’re not so much on the road, game after game after game with no practice time to get to know each other. It’s a big difference.
“Last year, a lot of our leaders were like 22 or 23 years old and I’m 21. Last year, I was 20, so I was learning from guys my same age. We were all making the same mistakes. I think we did a good job of getting veterans who can really help guys like myself and a few other young guys on this team. I already learned a lot from AK [Andrei Kirilenko] and B-Roy [Brandon Roy].”
Williams was less than impressive and inconsistent during his rookie season, which ended with averages of 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 21.7 minutes, but the young forward does appear to have a good grasp on what he needs to do this time. He has to find a way to utilize his natural talents to impact the game on a more consistent basis and Williams knows that he has to rev up his own motor when he gets on the court.
“[Williams] has to find a way to be aggressive and he has to find a way to have an impact on the game when he goes in,” Adelman said. “Last year, he was kind of up and down. He would have good games and then he would kind of float a little bit. We want him to be aggressive all of the time at both ends of the court.”
“I’ll probably say my motor, that’s the one thing [I’ve improved] and my mid-range shot,” Williams said. “I’ve really worked on those two things a lot this summer. Trying to get some second-chance points, I worked on a tip game and easy little things like that that a lot of people don’t do. Especially being a rookie last year, I think I missed on those opportunities, but just looking at film from last year and seeing some shots that I know I can make, shots I can make in the league and just have the confidence to shoot it. I think everyone knows I can shoot on this team. I’m just waiting on that breakout game and hopefully it will be today.”
After three regular season games, the breakout has yet to happen for Williams and fourth-year forward Dante Cunningham has been outplaying him coming off of the bench. It isn’t all negative for the former number two overall draft pick, but he just hasn’t been taking advantage of his opportunities.
“Defensively, he has been better this year,” Adelman said. “He is more aware of what he has to do. I think sometimes with young guys it just takes time. They have to figure it out for themselves. I think players learn how to be effective in the offense you are running and he [still] has to learn how to do that.”
Williams has time to figure things out. The Timberwolves are winning games and Love will miss six-to-eight weeks, so Adelman has little choice but to keep putting Williams out there. Crunch time will come when Love returns. Minnesota has added veterans and if everyone is performing well, they do have a shot at the playoffs. If Cunningham is still outworking Williams in December, Adelman will have a decision to make and if it’s to slot Williams behind both Love and Cunningham, the bust label will not be far behind.