Projecting Derrick Williams

The book on Derrick Williams over at A Wolf Among Wolves is they’ve transitioned from investigative optimism to almost-tangible evidence.

It’s a journey most Wolves fans have taken with various players. (Previous follies: Big Al Surveys the Court Forever, What is Corey Doing?, and Fourth Quarter Foye Becomes a Point Guard.) I almost feel like sitting this one out when I read stuff like this from Zach Harper:

I’m willing to remain patient with him because it is a make or miss league. For some players it’s a sprint to becoming a contributing member in the NBA. For some guys, it’s more of a marathon. I see improvement in his game that I was hoping for. He’s rebounding, taking better shots, and playing fantastic defense early on. He’s just not making shots.

This is solid reasoning for discussing a player like Greg Stiemsma, with his blocks-per-48 minutes numbers giving reason for optimism — or any other backup big man or defensive stopper your team is invested in. It actually could have been solid reasoning for keeping Corey Brewer on the roster. Because by this rationale, if you were sitting around waiting for all those misses to turn into makes, then defense and rebounding would be Derrick Williams’ NBA-ready skill. He’d be actively contributing it as his calling-card, like an enforcer you’d put in the game to settle it down.

Watching eyes don’t tell that story, but then we’ve got Benjamin Polk taking up the recent developments as proof of offensive life:

…very gradually, things have been getting better. Certain skills–ballhandling, shooting form, game feel–can take years of diligent work to develop. But effort and shot selection are things that a player can improve in the short term. And, to his credit, Williams has done just that. His defensive energy and focus have improved notably since the beginning of the year. He has been running the floor. He has been hitting the boards with a consistent fire that makes use of his incredible athleticism. (His rebound rate is up nearly a percentage point from last season.) He has replaced many of those contested, off-the-dribble jumpers with clean, rhythmic spot-ups. And his three-point shooting has improved accordingly. He hit just 26.8% of his threes last year; he’s hit 37.5% since the beginning of December.

The tight leash Adelman has held on Williams, even since Kevin Love went out with his second broken hand, has been a bit confounding for fans seeing such progress, but the reality of the situation has been a succession of small successes, hopefully instilling a trait. The head coach’s player-friendly reputation flies in the face of his treatment of Williams so far, as in this case, the system hasn’t exactly been made to fit the player.

Adelman likely views Williams through the lens of his fit within a particular offensive philosophy and team structure. And so, when Adelman looks at Williams, he probably sees: a poor ball-handler and passer; a player with intermittent defensive effort; a guy who guards the same position as two better, more consistent players. (Again, being picked second in the draft adds no bloom to that particular rose.)

If the recent improvements in Williams’ game aren’t enough to ouster current starting power forward Dante Cunningham, who is averaging 9 points, 6 rebounds and shooting 37% from the field over the last 5 games, maybe we’ll have to rethink what all this supposed progress means.


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