NBA PM: Williams Looks to Win ROY
There might not be a less-heralded second-overall pick in NBA history than the Timberwolves Derrick Williams.
The 6-8 combo forward played at a well-known program (Arizona), had a brilliant NCAA Tournament last spring—which included an upset of top-seeded Duke—and he’s even inked a deal with Under Armor. But thanks to the lockout and the presence of teammate and internationally known rookie Ricky Rubio, there hasn’t been much fanfare for Williams—not that he would have it any other way.
“Everybody wants to play with that pass-first point guard,” Williams told HOOPSWORLD about Rubio. “We have a guy who basically puts it in your hands and says, I’m going to pass you the ball. It’s up to you to make the shots.
“Hopefully we can get up the court and run and gun a little bit,” he continued. “You know, with Ricky at the point, he wants to throw the lobs. He wants to throw the behind the backs and stuff like that. He wants to be exciting.”
And fortunately for Williams and Rubio, new Timberwolves Rick Adelman has years of experience coaching some of the NBA’s most-entertaining offenses ever. The Rockets had the seventh-fasted tempo last season under Adelman (as judged by possessions per game) and finished sixth in offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions). The challenge will be fitting all the parts together, and that’s where Williams could get squeezed.
The Timberwolves have four players who could siphon minutes away from Williams at small forward (Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Martell Webster and Anthony Randolph) and four who could do the same at power forward (Beasley, Randolph, Kevin Love and Anthony Tolliver). But Williams doesn’t see things that way, instead envisioning a situation where everyone could do a little of everything.
“I heard about Adelman just working with the players that he has,” Williams said. “I feel like he’s going to do a great job especially when you have myself and Beasley. We have Randolph, we have K-love, we have Darko (Milicic). We have a good, core group of five or six players who can play, interchange, and I think we can be really, really dangerous. I feel like we have so many guys that are interchangeable and it could really cause matchup problems. And we’ll be learning from each other and I think that’s the whole point. Just learning from each other each and every day. Helping each other out. We all do that anyway. We could really be dangerous with this team. “
Of course, the aforementioned forwards all have NBA experience, which is something the 20-year-old Williams continues to wait for. Until the lockout comes to an end, Williams continues sharing a strength trainer with Love out in L.A. and working with another Timberwolves rookie, second-round pick Malcolm Lee.
Specifically, Williams worked on 3-point shooting and dribbling in an effort to challenge defenses. He hit over 50% of his attempts from beyond the arc last season with the Wildcats, but he did that from the college distance and attempted less than two threes per game.
“I do a lot of shooting, especially coming off screens,” Williams said. “I’m always trying to extend my game because you always want to create that mismatch. I don’t want anyone to guard me one single way just because they know I’m not going to score that way. So I want to take advantage of all that. If someone is going to play me left, I want to be able to score left. I’m trying to add to my game each and every day.
“I think a lot of people don’t think I can dribble,” he continued. “That’s the main thing is just to try to catch people off guard. It’s working on handles and working on, if people are trying to crowd me, just going around them without hesitation. I did a little bit of that year—going to the basket, slashing—but I want to be even more comfortable and confident in my ability to drive the ball left or right. If you keep working on it, you can eventually get there.”
If Williams can improve his shot and handle, the accolades are sure to follow.
He hopes to win the Rookie of the Year award, appear in the All-Rookie game and get selected for the dunk contest (“I have a few dunks up my sleeve.”), but he adds that for any of those dreams to happen, the Timberwolves “need to win games.”
But while the superlatives have been put on hold, the sponsorships have already arrived.
Williams’ first shoe, the “SuperSonic,” is being launched by Under Armor as part of the company’s new “Are You From Here?” campaign, which centers around the personal struggle basketball players endure to make themselves better.
“I did mine in Baltimore,” Williams said. “It was the whole workout, had my trainer come out with me and they said, ‘Whatever you do in a workout, do right now,’ with all these guys watching and recording. So I did exactly what I do at home. From the looks of it—this is the first time I’ve seen it—it came out pretty good.”
But as much as he loves his new low-top sneakers, Williams is visibly more excited about Minnesota’s chances whenever next season rolls around. He said the West is wide open “besides the obvious teams,” which include the Lakers, Mavericks, Thunder and Spurs. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s game.
“We have a good chance to get in that six, seven, eighth spot,” he said. “Even Memphis, last year they shocked everybody even without Rudy Gay. I feel like the West is wide open now.
“If we win those close games and get the key wins you need, then I think we have a chance to make a little run at the end of it,” he concluded.
Williams doesn’t lack goals or direction. He just needs the NBA lockout to end, and when that happens, America won’t be able to ignore this second-overall pick any longer.
World All-Star Classic May Not Include Stars
In another sign that the NBA lockout is coming to an end, Dwight Howard has decided to forgo the World All-Star Classic in San Juan, his manager Kevin Samples told Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel. That means four big-name players (LeBron James, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony being the others) have now excluded themselves from the event.
Maybe not the best source, but…
Kings forward Donte Green has taken to his Twitter account to make a major announcement: “So the lockout is over huh.”
Maybe that’s not the final stamp that the lockout has ended, but it’s a good sign when NBA players start hearing good news.
College Basketball Feeling (Carolina) Blue
North Carolina will begin the college basketball season atop the Associated Press top-25 rankings. This is the eighth time the Tar Heels have held the top slot in the preseason, which ties them with the UCLA Bruins for most all time.
UNC returns all five starters, including Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller in addition to incoming freshman James McAdoo, who is the nephew of NBA Hall-of-Famer Bob.
Syracuse, Duke, Vanderbilt, Florida, Louisville and Pittsburgh round out the top 10.
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