Patience is supposed to be a virtue, but there rarely seems to be room for it in today’s sporting world.
Rookies get drafted and we immediately start wondering how they’re going to get 36 minutes per game to fulfill their destiny of saving the franchise. If they’re a high draft pick, then immediate impact is expected and nothing can be brought along slowly. The problem with this intensity of expectation is it assumes every draft class happens in a vacuum.
There are some years in which a draft is loaded with All-Star potential. There are also some years in which you get unlucky by acquiring a top-7 pick because the talent pool just isn’t there. It’s hard to know it in the moment or even immediately after we start seeing these rookies at the NBA level. Because you “never know when a guy is going to surprise all of his doubters” and become an elite NBA talent.
Derrick Williams is caught up in this very problem right now, whether he’s aware of it or not. The number-two pick in the NBA draft is supposed to be a superstar, no matter what. And so far, D Dub has been underwhelming based on the stigma and expectations that come with the draft pick used on him. He isn’t starting and he isn’t getting consistent minutes. He doesn’t really fit in with where the Wolves are right now.
His natural position is the stretch-4 and the Wolves kind of have the best stretch-4 not named Dirk Nowitzki. You can move Kevin Love to the 5 in order to accommodate this clog at the 4, but Nikola Pekovic has proven over the last month that it’s impossible to move him from the space he occupies. You could move Derrick down to the 3 but he hasn’t exactly proven that he can play the 3 at the NBA level.
The first thing we heard about him during training camp is that he isn’t a 3 right now. And this is where the problem of Derrick Williams exists with impatient fans.
Some people think Derrick Williams is a bust – after 30 games in a chaotically truncated season. Does this seem erratic to anybody else?
I don’t find it frustrating that Derrick Williams doesn’t fit in with the current construct of the roster because I don’t look at the current construct of the roster as anything close to where it will be in two years. The foundation seems to be solid right now. Love, Rubio and Pekovic (how drunk would you think I am if you read this last season?) are the building blocks right now and everybody else has a chance to prove them belong or up their trade value to move on to the next point in their careers.
Looking at Williams’ numbers so far, there is nothing that really shows he fits in with this team and system right now. But there also isn’t anything that shows he won’t fit in with it a year from now.
We keep trying to find a position for him because that’s what we’ve been conditioned to do. Is this guy a small forward? Is he a power forward? Does he fit into the wing? Can we play him and Love in the post at the same time and get by defensively?
Positions are archaic. They really are. A lot of great coaches in the NBA worry about having their best unit on the floor, regardless of who fits into whichever position has been preordained by basketball ideals in a different era. This is why we’re seeing a lot of Luke Ridnour at the traditional shooting guard positions. It’s because he poses a matchup problem for a team’s defense that isn’t a typical thing to have to deal with (also because apparently Wayne Ellington is kidnapped before every game and held for ransom until the final 50 seconds of a blowout when he escapes).
It doesn’t mean this is a long-term solution because it’s not. But for what the Wolves have to work with right now, it seems like the best option.
Derrick Williams may not have a set traditional position but according to basketballvalue.com, he’s been a part of the Wolves’ most successful lineups on the floor this season. The Wolves have had 13 lineups get 20 or more minutes together this season.
The six lineups that have received the most minutes this season all have a negative net rating, and Derrick Williams has only been included in one of them. Five of those 13 lineups have gained a net positive in overall rating and Williams has been a part of four of them.
The Wolves seem to find ways to be successful with him on the court. It could be entirely coincidental because judging 557 minutes of playing time is not nearly a large enough sample size to examine. But in the small amount of evidence we have, he seems to be a good guy to have in a 5-man unit.
On a more individual level, Williams has definitely been a mixed bag of awesomeness and frustration. He floats… A LOT. Too often, it seems like he’s just waiting around the perimeter, hoping something will happen for him. He’s spotting up for jumpers more than he’s doing any other thing on the offensive end. It accounts for 21.1% of his plays that end in him taking a shot, attempting a free throw or turning the ball over.
The problem with this is he’s not a good spot-up shooter at all – at least not right now. He’s making just 34% of his spot-up shots and 26.7% of his spot-up 3-pointers. Where you find D Dub being successful is on offensive rebounds, isolation plays and, most of all, cutting to the basket. According to mySynergySports, he’s ranked 53rd in isolation plays, 48th in offensive rebounding possessions and 29th in plays in which he cuts to the basket.
Get Williams moving toward the basket and he’s a monster. Watch him float on the perimeter and you wonder why he’s even out there. So what’s keeping him from putting himself into situations in which he’s likely to be more successful?
It could be that he’s not naturally as aggressive as he needs to be or it could be that he’s a rookie who is getting lost in a system he had essentially two weeks to learn once the lockout ended. Cutting him some slack seems like the most logical thing to do because we may not truly get a good look at what he can do for this team until next season.
The idea that the Wolves should have traded the number-two pick in the 2011 draft is valid but it’s also a big steaming pile of conjecture too. There were plenty of rumors of things that could have gone down, but none of that is substantiated as anything real. Could the Wolves have traded the second pick for JaVale McGee?
Possibly. But if that had happened, would Pekovic have emerged as the player he has become over the last month? It seems unlikely. Watch McGee aimlessly frolic around the Wizards frontcourt and tell me you’d rather have him on this team than Derrick Williams.
Now this doesn’t mean the Wolves should treat Derrick as untradeable by any means. If they can use his potential as trade bait to acquire an All-Star caliber player at a much-needed position, I’d do it in a heartbeat. That has more to do with wanting this team to build seriously now than any doubts I have about Williams’ ability to fit in with this system.
Maybe this is a copout thing to say, but I think trying to judge individual players (ESPECIALLY rookies) on this team in the spotlight of a clusterfluff of a lockout-shortened season seems irrational to me. I have faith that he’ll get more comfortable on the team as the season goes on, will get good advice in his exit interviews once the season is over, and then we move from there.
If the advice is to be comfortable as Kevin Love’s backup and fill out the Sixth Man role on this team, then I’m intrigued to see how he handles that. If the advice is to slim down to 225 so he can become the missing link at the Wolves’ small forward, then I’m intrigued to see if he has the work ethic to heed this calling and become a monster at the 3.
After all, patience is still a virtue and I’m willing to be patient with a guy after 30 games of NBA experience.