Breaking Down Derrick Williams-Luc Mbah a Moute Trade

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Breaking Down Derrick Williams-Luc Mbah a Moute Trade
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We had been hearing about the Minnesota Timberwolves' desire to acquire a veteran rotation player, and apparently Minnesota has found that deal.

The Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings have agreed to swap their positionless forwards:

If this seems like a surprising return for trading the former No. 2 overall pick from the 2011 draft, you'd be right.

Derrick Williams has failed to fulfill his potential and live up to his draft slot thus far, as he's been a bad fit with Minnesota on both ends of the floor.

Williams is still just 22 years old, but the Timberwolves ran out of patience quite some time ago. Rick Adelman has played Williams just 14.7 minutes a night this year, a big dip from his mark of 24.6 last year. 

Sometimes it's hard to separate a player from his draft position, particularly when it's relatively fresh in our minds, but that's necessary when considering Williams' overall value to Minnesota.

Has Williams' price dipped so low that Minnesota can actually win a trade by receiving a player who was readily available as a free agent just a few short months ago? Let's look at it from both sides of the equation.  

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

 

Minnesota Timberwolves 

It's an understatement to say the Timberwolves have playoff aspirations. It's more like they have playoff requirements.

With Kevin Love eligible for free agency after the 2015-16 season is completed, the Timberwolves are short on time to convince him to stay and compete. If Minnesota falters this season or next, Love would have all the reason in the world to look elsewhere.

Am I insinuating that Mbah a Moute is the piece that puts the Wolves over the top? No, but it is a step in the right direction.

Mbah a Moute is one of the toughest and most versatile individual defenders in the league, and that's something the Timberwolves need on a team that prominently features two great scorers (Love and Kevin Martin) who can't really defend. Whether it's a wing or post assignment, Mbah a Moute can always take the toughest cover when he's out on the floor. 

Make no mistake, though: Mbah a Moute is strictly a defensive specialist.

Throughout his six seasons in the league with the Milwaukee Bucks and briefly with Sacramento this year, he's played on the wing and served as a small-ball 4. Very rarely, however, has he produced positive offensive results. Mbah a Moute averages less than 10 points per 36 minutes on his career, and his usage percentage of 13.9 percent demonstrates just how little he has the ball in his hands. 

For Minnesota, that's fine. Love, Martin, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and even J.J. Barea all need the ball to be truly effective, so adding a player who doesn't need the ball much in the same vein as Corey Brewer makes a lot of sense. 

Instead of force-feeding Williams into the offense, Minnesota can throw Mbah a Moute out there with a few scorers and know with more certainty that he'll have a positive impact on the game. Williams' scoring would come and go, but Mbah a Moute's defense will be bankable every night.

From a chemistry standpoint, it also might not hurt that Mbah a Moute played with Love during his one season at UCLA, either.

The money matters here as well. Minnesota will shave $2 million off its books next year with this swap while also avoiding Williams' massive $8.2 million qualifying offer in the same season Love might renegotiate long-term. 

The Wolves needed Williams to become a solid rotation player who was willing to mesh with the rest of the roster. He never did, and so they moved him for someone who can.

Grade: A-

David Sherman/Getty Images

 

Sacramento Kings 

It's easy to see the motivations from Sacramento's side. Even with Carl Landry sidelined, the Kings have a logjam in the frontcourt. Chuck Hayes is already a defensive specialist getting paid big money over the next few years, and finding spacing with Mbah a Moute on the wing can often be difficult. 

Realistically though, this was simply a talent grab by Sacramento's front office. Again, Williams is just 22 years old, and many players around the league don't establish who they are until they move on to their second team.

It's a low-risk, high-reward move for the Kings, particularly since Mbah a Moute wasn't moving the needle on Sacramento's outlook this season. This is strictly a play for the future, and getting Williams is like gaining another draft pick, albeit an expensive one.

In that sense, it's a great move for Sacramento. Williams still has a long ways to go as an offensive player, as he's a below 30 percent career three-point shooter. Defensively, he hasn't been much better, as he's justified some draft-day fears: too slow to defend on the wing and not big enough to defend inside. 

Kings GM Pete D'Alessandro said he's "excited" by the chance to add Williams to the fold, per an official media release.

"He will add size, length and serve as a scoring threat in our frontcourt. We also want to thank Luc for his contributions during the short time he was a King. We wish him the best."

Who wins the trade of Derrick Williams for Luc Mbah a Moute?

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The Kings will need to help Williams find his identity right off the bat, and that will certainly be a process. But again, if it doesn't work out, it's not a great loss, so long as Sacramento doesn't invest long-term once Williams comes off his rookie deal.

Truth be told, these are the types of risks Sacramento needs to take. Mbah a Moute is a better player now, but we know what he is. We aren't yet sure what Williams is, not after two seasons, and that makes his ceiling higher.

That said, the $2 million increase in Williams' salary compared to Mbah a Moute's isn't insignificant, particularly given Sacramento's lack of cap space this offseason. There's a good chance that Williams steals away a few touches from Ben McLemore as well, although that isn't a huge concern.

While the Timberwolves may have received the better player, Williams is probably the better asset. Given the current direction of both clubs, this feels like a win-win deal.

Grade: B+

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