/ TwitterThe Timberwolves have a group of young talent that, over the course of the summer, have an opportunity to take significant strides in their games and help the team take that next step into playoff contention. Rookies Derrick Williams and Malcolm Lee and second-year player Wes Johnson are part of that group and are the top candidates to participate in Summer League in Las Vegas on July 13-22. In Part 1 of this three-part series, Timberwolves.com breaks down Williams’ rookie year and looks ahead to his development over the summer. Biggest strengths in 2011-12
Unique scoring ability: Williams showed from the very beginning that he has a dynamic offensive game. He’s a player who can drive to the basket as well as leap out of the gym. He connected on several memorable alley-oops from guard Ricky Rubio to start the season. Overall, he finished the year scoring 8.8 points per game and had a .412 shooting percentage from the field.
Confidence beyond the arc: Complementing his aggressiveness in attacking the basket, Williams showed throughout the season he’s willing to take shots from the perimeter. Though his shooting percentage from 3-point range was .268 this year, when he did find his rhythm from long range he was a difference maker. Williams was 4-for-7 from distance against the Washington Wizards on Jan. 8—a 93-72 road victory—and was a perfect 4-for-4 in a 109-97 road win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 28. He shot .444 from 3-point range during the month of January.
Durability: Believe it or not, Williams was the only player on the Timberwolves roster to appear in all 66 games this season. He averaged 21.5 minutes per game and was ready to go off the bench when called. And when injuries shuffled the lineup, Williams was there to step into the starting role. He started 13 games this season in the absence of Kevin Love and started twice at small forward in place of Wes Johnson.
What to work on this summer
Decision making with the ball: Timberwolves player development coach Shawn Respert said because Williams can score, he needs to work on his decision making with the ball. There were moments, particularly late in the season, when Williams was called for charges because he tried to drive and score instead of making an open pass in the lane. He also had moments where he was caught in the air and attempted a low-percentage shot. Knowing when to drive, when to pass and when to take the open jump shot will minimize those fouls and make him a more efficient offensive player. “He’s got to get comfortable making good decisions with the basketball,” Respert said. “That’s hard to teach and drill.”
Defending the perimeter: Part of Williams’ development will be learning to become more comfortable in the small forward position, giving him the versatility to play the 3 and the 4. But in order to do that he will need to learn to guard wing players, who, as Respert said, “are a monster every night. You don’t get a night off.” Williams needs to be ready to come in and fight each night defensively. “It’s hard for someone to come in and be successful each night if they’re not going to just stick their nose in there, stick their chin in there and take hits and give them out, too,” Respert said.
Rebounding the basketball: Williams has an innate leaping ability that in itself allows him to grab a handful of boards a night. But in order to be more consistent, he needs to follow Pekovic and Kevin Love’s lead by finding a body to block out first and then beating the player to the basketball. Not only will it add to his rebounding game, but as an aggressive offensive player it will save on his legs.
Quotable Technique on guarding 3s: “It depends on who you’re guarding. Bigger guys like Carmelo [Anthony] might not be that athletic, but then you have LeBron [James] who is a freak of nature. Hopefully I’ll get to guard different guys and get ready for next season.” —Derrick Williams
“Ultimately that’s what we want from him—getting in the best shape of his life right now. Other things will come as he plays and gets a little more intelligent about the game of basketball. When he gets the IQ, he’ll know when to apply those right skill sets to the situation.” — Player development coach Shawn Respert
“He’s had his moments. He’s got to have a consistent effort night in and night out. The season has been so difficult with no practices and anything like that. But this summer will be big for him.” —Head coach Rick Adelman
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