Most people gave the Wolves kudos for their draft this past week. Some went as far as saying they got the best player in the draft.
Derrick Williams' combination of athleticism, strength and a solid shooting stroke make him a very intriguing prospect. While there was plenty of praise for David Kahn and the rest of the Wolves, there were still two big knocks on the selection.
One being the fact that he is a combo forward, and doesn't have a true position; with the other being there is another player already on the Wolves that is about the same size as Williams, shares the "combo forward" title, with plenty of athleticism, strength and a good shooting stroke.
He goes by the name Skittles, but his friends call him Michael Beasley.
A point guard. Sound familiar?
There are definitely reasons why the comparisons are there. Anyone who knows basketball can see them, but it's how Williams' abilities translate to the NBA, and what he will likely be asked to do that will make them vastly different on the court.
There are a couple aspects in particular that completely change a way an college player is effective in the pros, and that's what makes them so different.
Can Beasley and Williams Work Together on the Floor at the Same Time?
Effectiveness with and without the ball
This is the key difference. People who don't watch a bunch of basketball may not understand how important this truly is.
Take Mike Miller for example. In his first few years in Memphis, he was known for being a very good, maybe even great shooter. The big thing that people didn't realize was how often he had the ball in his hands. He was at his best creating off the dribble to get his shots off.
When he came to Minnesota, they wanted to build around Al Jefferson and Randy Foye at the time, and hoped Miller would thrive as a spot up shooter. His time in Minnesota lasted one year, as that strategy did not work well for him. Since leaving, he has gotten the hang of it, and hit some big shots for Miami in the playoffs. Early on though, it messed with his effectiveness.
Michael Beasley is a guy who needs the ball in his hands to be at his best. Before he hurt his ankle, he was one of the top scorers in the NBA, and Kurt Rambis would occasionally run isolation plays for him to get his shot off, including one big game-winner early on against the LA Clippers.
Williams, on the other hand, does not need the ball in his hands to put up big numbers. If he's putting up a three-pointer, he usually is shooting from the spot that he was passed the ball from. He's alright creating in the post, but in college that was more due to his strength and athleticism. Having Ricky Rubio (if he develops into a good starting PG) should help him immensely with his scoring, in the same way it should help sharp-shooter Wes Johnson.
There is no right way to score. Ray Allen doesn't need the ball in his hands to score, he'll be in the Hall of Fame one day. Dwyane Wade does. It all depends on the player.
Where the players are most comfortable on the court
This ties into the first part, but there is a major difference. While the two of them may play the same position, they'll be in different spots on the court if they want to be at their best. I'll explain.
Beasley is a solid post player. When he's hitting on all cylinders, it doesn't really matter where he is on the floor. His best spot on the floor, however, is on the top of the key, driving to the hole. He's a very good finisher, and does a great job adjusting his shot mid-air.
Williams is at his best in the post. His height will make it tough for small forwards, if that's what he ends up playing mostly. He will have trouble against bigger power forwards, but thankfully his athleticism should make it easier to move around. He rarely drives from the top of the key. That is one component of his game that he will have to work on right off the bat.
Confidence dribbling the basketball
This doesn't really require comparison. The fact of the matter is Beasley at this point is the superior ball handler. This is really what sets the two apart.
Williams might be the smarter player when it comes to shot selection, but there is a reason why 90 percent of his highlights come from dunks when he is already down in the post. If there were a mishap inbounding the ball, Beasley would be fine bringing the ball up the court, where Williams would likely look for another wing player.
This is not an attempt to say one player is better than the other, nor is it an attempt to say one has a higher ceiling than the other. It is simply stating that the idea that their skills are redundant is false. While they may have similar frames and levels of athleticism, that does not mean that they can't fit on a basketball court together.
When you have a pass-first point guard like Rubio, a guy who can create off the dribble like Beasley, and a guy who is very good at putting himself in position to score like Williams, it could really end up benefiting the Wolves as the season goes on.