The Derrick Williams conundrum on whether to pick up his fourth-year option headlines Zach Lowe’s excellent Grantland piece of guys in similar situations. The list includes other such lost souls as Jimmer Fredette, Bismack Biyombo, and Jan Vesely and while each of those names lends itself to plenty of “curiosity, confusion, and opportunism around the league”, each comes with plenty of troublesome question marks.
I am one of those Wolves malcontents who believe every day Derrick Williams is still in Minnesota is another day his trade value has gone down. Lowe quotes Flip Saunders as saying D-Will “could turn into something like a more athletic Al Harrington, spotting up on the weak side of pick-and-rolls” and noting that he’s still only 21 years old. But Al Harrington has always played with a chip on his shoulder (and a reputation as a plus-defender I can’t say is deserved or not), but that mean streak more than makes up for any imagined athleticism D-Will does or does not possess or utilize effectively.
It’s a solid article that raises hope and questions on the Wolves $6.3 million dollar question…
Williams has struggled to create anything in Adelman’s system. He’ll occasionally blow by overmatched power forwards on dribble drives and break out a crafty finish, but it’s unclear if he can do that against small forwards, and he’s flirting with very bad territory as a non-passer. He dished only 84 assists combined in two seasons, and last season, Williams became only the 12th player in the 3-point era to assist on fewer than 5 percent of his team’s buckets while using up at least 23 percent of Minnesota’s possessions with a shot, turnover, or drawn foul. Most players in this group are low-post finishers; Eddy Curry and Amar’e Stoudemire alone account for seven of the 19 player seasons on the list.
Williams is not a low-post finisher, and we’ve seen almost zero evidence he can work as an effective outside-in creator. There’s nothing wrong with being a stretch power forward off the bench; Harrington became a very effective one in Denver once he learned to either shoot open 3s or drive hard to the rim — and to make the choice right away, decisively.
The downside of playing Williams at power forward: He’s too small, at 6-foot-8 with a 7-1 wingspan, to defend the rim. Williams isn’t really a bad defender; he understands team schemes and help responsibilities, and he’s shown good balance in being able to rush out a shooter, stop on a dime if that shooter pump-fakes, and stay shoulder-to-shoulder with that shooter on a drive to the rim. But he has no shot in the post against the league’s back-to-the-basket behemoths, and he provides zero deterrent as a help defender at the basket.
These problems aren’t as serious if Williams settles into a role as a heavy-minutes backup power forward, spotting up and defending less threatening backups. But that’s not the ideal outcome for a no. 2 pick, and it might not be worth $6.3 million to Minnesota. Saunders wouldn’t comment on Minnesota’s plans for Williams’s fourth year, but he knows teams are eyeing Williams as a potential buy-low trade candidate.