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Timberwolves pick up option on Williams


Posted Oct 22, 2013 2:04 AM - Updated Oct 22, 2013 4:32 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Derrick Williams says he appreciates the security the Minnesota Timberwolves provided when they exercised the option on his contract for next season.

The Timberwolves confirmed the decision on Tuesday. They had until the end of the month to either exercise the option for 2014-15 or decline it and allow Williams to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Coach Rick Adelman says he sees progress in Williams' game this preseason. Williams, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2011, is the team's second-leading scorer in the exhibition season and could be in position to start at small forward while Chase Budinger recovers from another knee injury.

Williams averaged 12.0 points and 5.5 rebounds last year in his second season in the league. But there was some question about what the Timberwolves would do with a $6.3 million option on his contract.

While Williams hasn't always been on the same page with coach Rick Adelman in the first two seasons of his career, new president of basketball operations Flip Saunders saw the young player as an asset to be developed.

Williams has bounced around between small forward and power forward in his first two seasons and has played at his best at power forward. He played there primarily in the second half of last season with Kevin Love out because of a broken hand.

He showed improvement in his second season, especially down the stretch while he starting for the injured Love. He averaged 15.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and shot 34 percent from 3-point range over the final 33 games of the season and, perhaps most importantly on a team that was ravaged by injuries, has been the most durable player on the Wolves' roster over the last two years.

But with Love back in the mix this season and Adelman favorite Dante Cunningham backing him up at power forward, Williams may have to get the bulk of his playing time at small forward. He had jaw surgery after last season concluded to fix an alignment issue and had to sip food through a straw for weeks. Williams worked with Love's trainer to drop close to 20 pounds in an effort to gain quickness and better match up with small forwards on defense, and he's made some strides in that area during the preseason.

"I know how good I am. I know how good I can be," he said during training camp. "Just got to keep working. That's why I took a few months to get my body in shape. I'm not tired. Last season I was exhausted. But the extra 15-20 pounds off, it really helps."

With small forward Chase Budinger out indefinitely because of an injured left knee, the opportunity is there for Williams to get more playing time there this season. Williams started at small forward against Boston on Sunday and Adelman will likely continue to use him at both spots depending upon the matchups on a given night.

Adelman has been pushing Williams hard to be more consistent on both ends of the floor and that hasn't changed in the preseason.

"Frankly I thought last year in camp he made some adjustments playing the 3 and then he just kind of gradually got away from it," Adelman said during camp. "He's got to really, really hone in on that. That's a chance for him to be very effective."

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