Kevin Love's Injury Paves Way for Derrick Williams to Blossom into a Star

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured Columnist IVApril 10, 2017

Oct 12, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams (7) posts up against Indiana Pacers guard Same Young (4) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeated Minnesota 96-91.  Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

The Minnesota Timberwolves have incurred a blow of Kevin Love proportions.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the star forward has suffered a broken right hand and will miss extensive time:

Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love will miss at least six weeks after breaking his right hand.

Love sustained the injury on Wednesday while working out, not in a T'wolves practice session, sources said. He is expected to be sidelined up to eight weeks. Minnesota's first game is Nov. 2.

With Minnesota's Ricky Rubio already on ice, the fate of this team must now be put in someone else's hands. Derrick Williams' hands, to be exact.

As the Timberwolves attempt to weather the hailstorm that will be life without Love and Rubio, they need a star, a pillar to emerge.

Which brings us to Williams.

Yes, the same Williams who the Timberwolves dangled in numerous trade negotiations this past summer, the same Williams who rendered Kyrie Irving an uncertain No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft and the same Williams who has done anything but prove his worth.

Yeah, that Williams.

After a lukewarm 2011-12 rookie campaign that saw him average 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds on 41.2 percent shooting, the time for the athletically inclined forward to blossom into star and live up to his draft position has arrived.

And with Love watching from the sidelines for the next couple months, his path to stardom is officially unimpeded. 

We all know the deal on Williams by now. He's obnoxiously explosive with the ability to score from anywhere on the floor. He can also be extremely aggressive on the glass, has a great handle on the ball for a big man and is noticeably coordinated on both ends of the floor.

What we don't know, though, is if Williams is capable of parlaying such attributes into stardom.

Though he is only entering his sophomore season, it's fair to question his potential. His 41.2 percent conversion rate is especially alarming, because nearly half of his seven shot attempts came at the rim. Which means he hardly exuded his value as an inside-out presence, knocking down just 26.8 percent of his three-point attempts and shooting just a 26.1 percent clip between three and 23-feet from the basket.

Williams' 8.8 rebounds per 40 minutes are also of concern for someone of his size and athletic ability. Love has never posted a lower per 40-minute rate than 13.7, and while he has two inches on his teammate, he's nowhere near as athletic.

But that's all in the rear-view mirror.

Sure, Williams struggled right out the gate, but now, he no longer has the weight of Love's presence holding him back. It takes time to develop future stars, especially when those stars are forced to come off the bench in a limited capacity because their counterpart is a top-five player at their position.

So, as heralded as Love is and as much as he means to the Timberwolves, he was essentially a roadblock that stood between a rookie and his star-esque potential.

Now, however, Williams will be thrust into a starting role for up to eight weeks. That gives him enough time to establish himself as his own player, someone who is more than just Love's backup.

Let's not forget that this is a guy who averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds on 59.5 percent shooting per game in his last season at Arizona; he's someone who once thrived as the focal point of the offense.

And now he has the opportunity to do so again. 

Love's gone, Rubio's gone, both Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy remain question marks for the time being and Nikola Peković doesn't present the same kind of versatility.

Which leaves Williams to assume the role of temporary cornerstone. He has never been more vital to the Timberwolves' survival than he is now and unlike last year, he'll open up the season a consistent member of the rotation.

And truth be told, a bit more stability is all Williams ever needed. 

Last season, in games where the rookie played 30 minutes or more, he posted an average of 14.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. For a neophyte, someone who isn't yet familiar or fully acclimated to the pace and inner workings of the NBA, those are stellar numbers.

And we shouldn't have expected anything less. Not all stars can be developed as reserves. Just because James Harden is an exception doesn't mean Williams is a bust or the embodiment of wasted potential.

All he needs is consistent playing time and a legitimate opportunity to prove and establish himself.

Now, with Love watching from the sidelines, a legitimate opportunity to succeed is exactly what he'll receive.

And establishing himself as a star is exactly what he'll do.



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