The Wolves traded a former #2 overall pick for a defensive specialist — a potential stud for a role player. The reaction is something like a small gasp. Not quite audible, but enough to hold a breath. It’s pretty damning — moving such a glamorous pick for a journeyman — until you realize what both players actually are.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is making 80% of his shots near the rim. Derrick Williams is at 50%. Moute is averaging 2.8 assists per 36 minutes. Williams is at .2. (Hat tip, Steve McPherson.)
Translation: the defensive specialist is more adept at playing efficient offense than the young, talented, athletic prized impact player. I’ve seen enough of Williams’ mud runs, indecisive perimeter catches and jab-steps before realizing he can’t do anything with the ball after wasting a few seconds and tossing it back to Ricky Rubio or JJ Barea and setting himself for a pick and pop clanging jumper. I get it: he’s a stretch-four playing behind the best stretch-four in a generation, but at some point some definite NBA-level skills need to show through or you’re left like so much Syracuse flotsam. (At least the Wolves got something for this draft pick, without having to promise a future pick just to take him off their hands.)
Bigger picture, this trade means the Wolves aren’t dealing in potential anymore. It’s time to move the deadweight for something that can pick up an oar and contribute. It’s winning time! Or something. The Wolves are .500 with a bench on the way.
The potential of the deal is this maxed out team could have the potential to add some more firepower.
Zach Harper is A Wolf Among Wolves, he illuminated this well…
Minnesota will shave roughly half a million dollars off their salary cap, giving them a bit of breathing room in terms of approaching the luxury tax if they were to take another swing at a trade and bring in another rotation player that might increase the payroll. They’re roughly $3.1 million under the luxury tax. It’s even better for next season. The Wolves will head into the offseason getting nearly a $2 million savings having LRMAM over Williams. It also means they don’t have to re-sign Dante Cunningham if the asking price is much more than the $2.1 million he’s making now. They’ll now be just under $66 million for payroll, which may give them the flexibility to add a mid-priced free agent this coming summer while still avoiding the luxury tax.
Avoiding the luxury tax is big for saving the team money but it also is big for keeping roster flexibility. Once you get into the repeater tax if you’ve pushed past the luxury tax apron, mid-market teams like the Wolves can get hammered and begin to lose their shirt.
The Wolves accomplished this by getting a better role player for this team now and not giving up any draft picks in the process. Was it selling low on Derrick Williams and his potential? Possibly. I was resigned to hoping Williams would become a rotation player that could float between both forward positions and find a way to impact the game. Instead, the Wolves have traded him for that player. It’s not a sexy deal but they acquired a playoff rotation type of player who can allow them to throw different looks at some of the best forward scorers in the West.