The Minnesota Timberwolves made a free agency play today.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Wolves have agreed to a one-year deal with former Portland Trail Blazers backup point guard Maurice Williams. The deal nets Williams $3.75 million, according to Woj, and gives the Wolves and Wolves’ fans the backup point guard they’ve been craving.
Mo Williams has agreed to a one year, $3.75M deal with the Timberwolves, league source tells Yahoo.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 28, 2014
So… what does this mean? Here are my initial thoughts on what this signing means, in bullet form!
– This is a nice signing for the Wolves in terms of giving Ricky Rubio a proper backup point guard. JJ Barea was thrust into that role this past year and along with the rest of the bench failed miserably. Barea had by far the worst season of his career (not counting first two seasons when he was still trying to crack rotations). Some of this was his own decision-making and some of it was the fact that he didn’t have any scorers or shooters to space the floor for him to be effective. Wolves fans will look at him negatively for this but I think that’s a bit of a mistake. It’s fine not to like him but he was misused in a role that doesn’t suit him this past season.
When Barea came aboard in 2011-12, he was a change of pace scoring guard off the bench. He was supposed to play off ball and be a similar role to how the Mavericks had just used him in their championship role. He ended up starting games in the playoffs because it ruined opponents with match-ups, but really his role was to be the secondary action off the ball, and be able to attack in pick-and-rolls or off drive-and-kicks in the middle of the play as the defense was scrambling and recovering. They surrounded him with shooters and gave him the space to operate. This didn’t happen in Minnesota and he certainly didn’t have another way of playing. I do recognize that was on him on many levels but it was also on the team, either due to injury or due to poor roster construction. It didn’t help that Rubio couldn’t prove to Rick Adelman last season the flashy plays would be left behind in the first three quarters. This led to Adelman trusting (sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly) a more veteran, experienced ball handler on the floor in fourth quarters a dozen times in the season. That’s not Barea’s fault, but he’ll get crucified (along with Adelman) for it because it didn’t work out.
– We’re kind of talking here like Barea is gone, even though he’s very much under contract this season. I think it’s safe to say he is gone though. The Wolves have a very crowded backcourt right now. You have Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin as the current starters (you know, until Love is traded and then who knows what happens?). Then you have Zach LaVine, Maurice Williams, Alexey Shved, and JJ Barea. It seems likely the Wolves will try to move Martin and Barea in deals. There was talk earlier in the month of Shved trying out more of a lead guard role, but with Williams and LaVine on the roster, this could likely mean he’s on his way out too. It’ll be tougher to deal Martin with three years left on his deal, but Barea and Shved are in the final years of their respective contracts. Should be much easier to deal.
– I’ve decided I’m only referring to him as Maurice Williams. I don’t know why. It just seems right.
– As for Maurice vs. JJ as a player, their play last season is actually quite similar. Check out the comparison here. Barea was better at taking care of the ball, better at assisting teammates, and a better volume scorer. He also got to the free throw line more. But the biggest differences are 1) the height of 6’1″ vs. 5’9″-ish and 2) the shooting percentages. Barea had the worst shooting season of his career with huge drop-offs in both field goal percentage and 3-point percentage. Williams had a drop-off but was still a very acceptable shooter out there. His biggest issue is hijacking possessions and some bad turnovers. Although, on this team without Love, I’m not sure how much of a problem that will actually end up being. It was a big problem for a Blazers team in the hunt.
– Hey, another Blazers role player!
– Here’s something to be wary of with Maurice Williams: he’s a moody guy. We know Barea had a tendency to pout, not get back on defense, and even throw a tantrum or two at weird times. Williams isn’t quite that bad, but he has a bit of a reputation as a difficult guy to deal with. It’ll be interesting to see what his outlook is with this team, knowing he just signed with a team that is going to trade its only superstar. With that said, I like a little feistiness with a gunner mentality for a backup point guard off the bench. And Maurice can shoot the ball. He’s a career 38.5% 3-point shooter and even with him hijacking possessions, you can live with a guy that believes in himself while possessing that jumper. The moodiness adds a little attitude on the court and that isn’t a terrible thing for a bunch of young guys needing to learn confidence. Williams has confidence and then some.
– No, this shouldn’t have any effect on a potential Kevin Love trade with Cleveland. Williams can’t be dealt until December 15th, and even then he can veto any trade because he’s signed a one-year deal. Doesn’t mean he wouldn’t allow a trade to be with LeBron James in Cleveland again; we should just hope that a trade is made before the season starts and isn’t waiting around until mid-December.
– I’m a firm believer in the idea that in this Collective Bargaining Agreement, there is no such thing as a bad one or two-year contract. Only giving Williams one year at this money is truly a perfect signing for improving the bench. This is a good move by Flip Saunders, whether this is a good or bad team.
– He’ll help you learn how to shoot, kids!