Minnesota's rash of injuries have reached a possible season-derailing level, but credit coach Rick Adelman for keeping the team afloat with a 5-3 record (the fifth-best mark in a loaded Western Conference).
The Timberwolves knew entering the 2012-13 season that they'd be without Ricky Rubio (ACL) and Kevin Love (hand) for an extended stretch. But there was no way to plan for all of the in-season training room trips that Minnesota players have made. Starters Brandon Roy (knee) and Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and key reserves Chase Budinger (knee) and J.J. Barea (foot) have all been bitten by the injury bug since the season tipped off.
With eight different starters in the team's first eight games, Adelman has scoured his roster searching for production. Williams, one of only three Timberwolves to have started every game, has nearly played his way out of the coach's already-depleted rotation.
The pre-draft buzz surrounding Williams after his prolific sophomore season at the University of Arizona (19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds) revolved around whether he was a 'tweener or a matchup nightmare—both terms foreshadowing the fact that he did not have an NBA position.
As it turns out, the scouts had this one pegged correctly. After 74 games as a professional, he still hasn't found a way to be effective at either forward position.
His base statistics (8.8 career points and 4.8 career rebounds) fail to truly capture just how underwhelming his brief career has been. If his 41.2 rookie field goal percentage wasn't a great cause for concern, perhaps the 32.4 percentage he's posted through eight games has clanged the panic alarm like an errant Williams' jumper.
It's still premature to write off the 21-year-old as a complete bust, but each of his ineffective games takes a chunk out of whatever trade value Minnesota has left to sell to other teams. Love's impending return could banish Williams from Adelman's power forward rotation, while the reported addition of Josh Howard (according to ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard) could block Williams' path to whatever small forward minutes will be left behind Andrei Kirilenko.
Minnesota sports broadcaster Darren Wolfson tweeted that a player agent said he thinks the Timberwolves are trying to make a trade. There aren't many healthy commodities on Minnesota's roster, so Williams' name emerges as one of the more likely candidates.
Minnesota's best option with Williams is to...
His name was linked to offseason trade rumors involving Pau Gasol and Nicolas Batum, according to Jon Krawczysnki of the Associated Press. Given his lethargic start to this season, it's hard to imagine his inclusion in deals involving players half as talented as Gasol or Batum.
Perhaps Minnesota and Sacramento could swap their recent draft mistakes in a Williams-for-Tyreke Evans deal. Evans' stock in Sacramento has plummeted since his impressive rookie year, and Williams may have an easier transition to the small forward spot than Evans did. As an impending restricted free agent, Evans could offer some low-risk security behind Brandon Roy. If needed, Minnesota could sweeten the deal with one of Rubio's impending backups (Barea or Luke Ridnour).
Or maybe Orlando will look to bolster their rebuilding plans with a Williams-for-J.J. Redick swap. The rebuilding Magic simply need to add talent and, as stated above, Williams showed enough of it in college to warrant his draft position.
The Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz reported in August that Redick (and his expiring contract) was among a number of Magic players available on the trade market.
Needless to say, Minnesota needs to approach the trade market with tempered expectations. But Williams' trade stock will only decrease as the season goes on.