Checking in on Derrick Williams

Associated Press

Associated Press

This summer, Derrick Williams has passed his time by starting the #DwillSneakerHunt and it continued Tuesday as he went about hiding hot styles of sneakers around the greater Los Angeles area. Why hide them? So the kids following him on Twitter and Instagram can race to find a new pair of kicks. After all, school is just around the corner. Along with his playful act of charity, Williams has also spent time this summer promoting his clothing store, VII Grand, which opened in February and is located in Tucson, Arizona. When Williams isn’t in Tucson overseeing operations, he’s on the phone almost daily with close friend and store manager Mario Escalente. At age 22, it’s obvious Williams has already spent a lot of effort promoting himself as an entrepreneur, but what has he been doing this offseason to improve himself as a basketball player? After two seasons in the NBA Williams should have developed a more formidable identity in the league by now, right? So far, this hasn’t exactly been the case, although he still has time to prove to the Timberwolves and the rest of the NBA that he was worthy of the second overall selection nearly two years ago.

Williams’ identity crisis begins with his stature, currently listed at 6’8’’ and 241 pounds and perfectly fitting the mold as a “tweener” forward. As he stands right now, he has too much bulk while lacking the proper handles that are necessary in order to have sustained success as a small forward. Contributing to his dilemma, he lacks the height, length and refined post game that is necessary to be an effective power forward. During his time playing for Arizona, Williams used his size as an advantage. He found success by dragging bigger and slower defenders away from the basket which allowed him space away from his opponent. From there, he greatly relied on his athleticism to make up for the fact that he was and is still not a great dribbler. When opposing bigs left Williams open on the perimeter, he punished them by shooting a blistering 56.8% from three during his final season. If opponents tried to stop Williams by assigning him smaller and quicker defenders, he muscled his way inside for an easy layup or dunk, which he converted at a high rate. One of the most notable discrepancies between his success in college and the NBA has been his increased difficulty finishing around the rim, as he continues to face much bigger frontcourts than he previously saw in the Pac-12.

Williams’ progression from his rookie to second season can be attributed to his increased playing time under Coach Adelman. It’s important to assess how players respond to increased minutes, and in Williams’ second season he appeared in 12 more games while playing 498 more minutes than during his rookie season. Now, this is largely a result of the high frequency of injuries that the Wolves roster was hit by last year, especially in the frontcourt. Nonetheless, he was able to improve in every offensive statistical category, as depicted by this graphic:

Derrick Williams totals

The statistic that jumps out to me the most is his significant improvement shooting from 3pt range. Williams made 28 more three-pointers last season than he did during his rookie season and improved by a total of 6.4% on 58 more attempts. After being dubbed as one of the top perimeter shooters in the 2011 Draft, it was a disappointment seeing Derrick struggle so mightily in his rookie season. However, it is clear that he has made shooting one of his priorities last summer as was quietly the second best three-point shooter on the team only behind J.J. Barea.

Williams currently finds himself in a tough spot on the depth chart and in Adelman’s rotation. I can only speculate that he will see most of his time on the floor splitting minutes with fellow SF/PF Dante Cunningham as Kevin Love‘s backup. Cunningham understands his role and has Coach Adelman’s trust as a proven role player.

The center position is occupied by incumbent starter Nikola Pekovic – assuming he re-signs – and rookie Gorgui Dieng and there is currently an abundance of players at the two wing positions. Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad, Alexey Shved and Kevin Martin will all share time on the wing, with Adelman likely going with a hot-hand on a nightly basis. I touched a bit recently on the starting lineups we could see this season and, unsuprisingly, none of them featured Williams. However, in situations where the Wolves potentially play small by inserting Love at center, Williams could man the power forward spot as he is a respectable rebounder.

It’s only fair I expose my bias: I am a fan of the University of Arizona and have been for a long time. I remember being excited about Loren Woods (yes, Loren Woods) joining the team in the early 2000’s. It’s just one of the reasons I loved bringing in and retaining Budinger. Williams is a Wildcat and I want to see him do well.

Lucy Nicholson/Rueters

Lucy Nicholson/Rueters

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Evan Turner, Hasheem Thabeet, Michael Beasley and Williams were all taken with the No. 2 overall selection dating back to 2008 draft. This year it was Victor Oladipo out of the University of Indiana. If I’m building a team and have these players to select from, I would choose Williams with little hesitation. Beasley has obviously had his chances, Oladipo hasn’t played a minute as a pro, and last season as I compared D-Will to Evan Turner the numbers show that Williams has made more out of his time in the league than the former Ohio State Buckeye. I believe that Williams has outperformed the previously mentioned names taken with the same selection, granted that each player’s situation has been different.

Williams has been labeled a bust by some thus far into his short career and has been the constant subject of trade rumors since coming to Minnesota, however in my opinion he has not received a fair opportunity to demonstrate how valuable he can be to this team. Although his roots stem from the southwest, he has not once spoken against playing in Minnesota. He has a positive attitude and doesn’t shy away from interacting with fans, on and away from the camera. In my opinion, Derrick will need a more defined role in order for him to be able to succeed going forward.

This season should be the most crucial one to Williams’ young career. With the depth that currently surrounds him, he will need to earn the trust of his coach and teammates in order to get consistent minutes on a nightly basis. The chances of his name resurfacing in trade rumors around the deadline are a possibility as the Wolves could look to move him for a player with a more defined skill set or even a future draft selection. Regardless of what happens, I believe that Williams will become a mainstay in the league as long as he remains healthy and shows incremental improvement every season. If it isn’t meant to be with the Timberpups, it’s only a part of the business, but as long as he is here he will be important to the development of the Pups as a team.

Timberwolves Summer League Rewind

Shabazz Muhammad at Timberwolves Summer League

“Here’s what we need you to do Shabazz…”
(Photo credit: Chase Stevens / Las Vegas Review Journal)

While the Summer League rolls on tonight and tomorrow, the Timberwolves’ participation in the tournament ended this past Friday.  After falling to the D-League Select team for the second time on Thursday, the Wolves were bounced out of the tournament, wrapping up with a consolation game on Friday – their fifth game in as many nights.

The Pups finished the tournament with a 3-3 record.  Their wins came against the Heat, Kings, and Blazers, while they lost to the D-League team twice and lost at the buzzer to the Suns.  What did we learn from the Timberwolves Summer League session?  I think there are a few takeaways from the week.

  1. Shabazz Muhammad is going to work his tail off to get meaningful minutes.
  2. As Flip alluded to during one of the broadcasts, Gorgui Dieng is ready to play in the NBA from a defensive standpoint, but has a good amount of work to do on the other end of the floor.
  3. Beyond Muhammad and Dieng, there is likely only to be one open roster spot and a few guys from this team made a decent case for that spot.

[Read more…]

Probable Timberwolves Lineups for 2013-14

What are some Wolves lineups we’ll see on the floor this season?  Assuming Nikola Pekovic’s contract is finalized according to plan and players remain healthy, I’ve broken down possible combinations for who would be in the starting five, and have included the positives and negatives for each.

Who will join these two in the Timberwolves starting five?

Who will join these two in the Timberwolves starting five?

I call this the “Five with Fire”, because what is a lineup without a corny nickname:

  1. Ricky Rubio
  2. Kevin Martin
  3. Chase Budinger
  4. Kevin Love
  5. Nikola Pekovic

In this five, Chase Budinger starts at swingman.  Most of the lineups will contain the Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin backcourt and with Budinger’s cutting and spot-up shooting abilities, fits right in.  His length and speed makes him a tough guard for opponents not used to chasing a faster 3 around the floor.  Look for Chase to cut around screens for catch and shoot opportunities as well as backdoor cuts to the basket such as this one: [Read more…]

Corey Brewer to Sign with Timberwolves, Pekovic Still Working on Deal

Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Wolves are close to signing both free agent swingman Corey Brewer and RFA center Nikola Pekovic. Pek’s deal is an extension that is pressumed to be in the four-year, $50 million range and Brewer’s new contract is expected to be around $15 million over three years.

Brewer was drafted by the Wolves in 2007 and played 3+ seasons with the team before being included in the three-team trade that sent him, Carmelo Anthony and pieces to the Knicks while bringing Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph to Minnesota. Brewer was immediately waived by the Knicks before playing a game and ultimately signed with the Dallas Mavericks in March of the 2011 season. Even though Brewer played in only thirteen games, he became an NBA Champion as the Mavs defeated the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals. Following the season, Brewer was traded to the Denver Nuggets where he averaged 10.7PPg in 141 games. The 6-foot-9 SG/SF is a lengthy and pesky perimeter defender who has a knack for releasing quickly for easy transition buckets. [Read more…]

Rumors: Timberwolves Interested in Corey Brewer?

Corey BrewerBeing as it is July 9, the heart of the offseason for sporadic NBA rumors is among us with the latest rumor involving a potential return of a former Timberwolves lottery pick. The former 7th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft out of Florida is Corey Brewer, the 6-foot-9 SG/SF who Minnesota fans remember best for his smile and big heart.

Brewer failed to live up to the hype after being a top-10 selection for the Wolves but proved to be a serviceable swingman in the NBA after  contributing in a reserve role for the 2010 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks and following the title victory with two productive seasons for the Denver Nuggets. [Read more…]

Does Alan Anderson Make Sense for the Timberwolves?

RON TURENNE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

RON TURENNE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Who is Alan Anderson?

As some Minnesotans may recall, Anderson was Minnesota’s 2001 Metro Player of the Year playing for DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis. After accepting a full ride scholarship to play for Tom Izzo at Michigan State, Anderson became an immediate contributor as he appeared in every game during his freshman year averaging 24.5 minutes per game. A four-year starter in East Lansing, he appeared in the 2005 Final Four and was voted co-team MVP during his senior season by his teammates.

After not hearing his name called in the 2005 NBA Draft, Anderson lingered between Charlotte and Tulsa playing for the Bobcats and their D-League affiliate 66’ers for two seasons before eventually signing with VidiVici Bologna in Italy. He became somewhat of a journeyman playing with four European teams in the next three years, but made his return to the states in 2010 after being selected 2nd overall by the New Mexico Thunderbirds in the NBA Developmental Draft. In only ten games, Anderson averaged 21.1 points – the third best scoring average in the league – while also contributing 5.8 rebounds and 5 assists per game. He shot 53.1% from the field, 38% from beyond-the-arc and 81.8% from the charity stripe during his time with the Thunderbirds. [Read more…]

Timberwolves Waive Stiemsma and Gelabale

To close out the holiday weekend, the Timberwolves officially announced that they have waived Center Greg Stiemsma and Forward Mickael Gelabale.  Neither of these moves should really be too surprising for Timberwolves fans, but here was the official news from the Timberwolves PR Twitter account:

First, in regard to Greg Stiemsma, there simply isn’t enough room on the roster for him.  Given the presumed return of Nikola Pekovic, the drafting of Gorgui Dieng, and the guaranteed (and cheaper) contract of Chris Johnson, there really wasn’t an easier solution for the front office.  You have to assume at this point that the club has done their homework and will be comfortable matching any offer that comes to Pekovic.  Which of course is a good thing. [Read more…]