The Minnesota Timberwolves have some problems at forward, and they have Derrick Williams to thank for that.
With Chase Budinger and his torn meniscus missing the start of the season, the Wolves had to find a makeshift backup 3 to play behind Corey Brewer. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.
The Wolves should have a backup small forward. That’s something that should exist when you have Derrick Williams coming off your bench, even though Williams has clearly proven to be more of a 4 than a 3.
Still, Minnesota seems like it's stuck with Brewer as the starter without much after that—and it’s not like Brewer is someone you want playing nearly 40 minutes a game.
After a five-point overtime win over the Orlando Magic playing on the second night of a back-to-back, we should be lauding Kevin Love for his game-tying three at the end of the fourth quarter. We should be talking about Ricky Rubio’s 11 dimes. Instead, we’re talking about Derrick Williams’ DNP, a benching of the ever-dreaded “CD” variety.
Thursday, one day after Williams didn’t see the floor against the Magic, Rick Adelman made a calculated statement to 1500 ESPN in Minneapolis.
“I don’t worry about him as much as you guys do,” Adelman said of Williams. “No, really. He’s going to get a chance to play when it looks like a good opportunity for him.”
So many qualifications. So many conditions. When will it all stop?
“As much as you guys do.”
“When it looks like a good opportunity for him.”
So what Adelman is saying is that he worries about Williams, just not as much as the media. Maybe almost as much, but not quite as much.
He thinks Williams is going to play, but Wednesday night may not have been an anomaly. He’s only playing in “good opportunities for him”.
When are those good opportunities? Blowouts? When injuries force him into the rotation? When Mrs. Williams calls Adelman and demands for her son to play? Even Stacey Patton’s mom wouldn’t go that far.
So what are the Wolves to do? Corey Brewer can’t and won’t play almost 40 minutes a night, like he did Wednesday. If he does, Minnesota has bigger issues.
Robbie Hummel isn’t the answer. (Sorry, West Lafayette, IN.) Is Shabazz Muhammad going to come off the pine? It would be odd to see him jump Williams in the rotation, regardless of positional preference.
There are two ways for the Timberwolves to look at Williams: He can be Derrick Williams, the Player or Derrick Williams, the Asset.
Derrick Williams, the Player is someone who wasn’t good enough to get in the game on opening night, at least by the Wolves’ standards. He’s someone who has been a relative disappointment over the first two-plus years of his career. He’s clearly not someone the Wolves actively want. It’s more of a passive, “Well, I guess if he’s here, he’s here” attitude.
Derrick Williams, the Asset needs to play. Derrick Williams, the Asset is someone who has volatile stock, someone who simply needs to be maintained before he can be improved. And the only way to maintain an asset’s value is to show it off.
Regardless of if Derrick Williams, the Player has value to the Wolves, Derrick Williams, the Asset does. The Asset is someone who has to see the floor because if its stock shoots down, it’s going to become harder and harder to flip it for a quality contributor. It seems like a Williams trade would be part of anyone’s destiny, but if the Wolves don’t play him, it’s going to be difficult to get back fair value in a deal.
Take a page out of the Orlando Magic’s book. Magic point guard Jameer Nelson has started for the first two games of the season, even though No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo is coming off the bench.
The Magic don’t have a chance at the title. They don’t have a chance at the playoffs. They’re—for lack of a better word—tanking the season.
That could be one realistic reason Nelson has started over Oladipo. Really, though, if Orlando wants to trade Nelson, who makes $8.6 million this year and whose deal is non-guaranteed next year, they have to showcase him. They have to show that he can still play.
If Minnesota wants to get anything for Williams, it has to do the same thing. There’s got to be a showcase just so it can prove to the rest of the league that the franchise that drafted him still has some semblance of confidence in his basketball abilities.
Sometimes teams have to sacrifice for the greater good. Trading an undersized, unproven power forward for a small forward would be strange, but with only $11.3 million left on his deal over the next two years, Williams has a tradable contract that could bring back a package that includes a small forward.
If Minnesota does trade Williams, it feels like we won’t even know if they’re getting too much or too little until long after the fact. It might be his third year in the league, but Derrick Williams is still a vast unknown. You’re not going to get what you could have had two years ago for him, but you can still get something.
Maybe Rick Adelman doesn’t believe playing Derrick Williams will help his team win right now. Maybe the Timberwolves’ front office agrees with him. Maybe they’re right.
After all, David Kahn, the man who originally drafted Williams back in 2011, is long gone in Minnesota. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other reasons to throw him on the floor.
Williams may not be able to play small forward anymore, but like it or not, Derrick Williams, the Asset is what can potentially bring Minnesota the small forward it needs.
Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36 minutes numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com or on ESPN’s TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.