Player Profile: Derrick Williams
Player Profile: Derrick Williams
Editor’s Note: Throughout the summer, Timberwolves.com will profile members of the 2012-13 team and take a look at how they performed as well as their preparations for next season. In Part III of this series, we profile Derrick Williams’ sophomore year in which he gained significant playing time with Kevin Love out due to injury.
Wolves forward Derrick Williams brought a lot of expectations with him to Minnesota after being drafted second overall by the Wolves in 2011. He entered during a lockout year, showed his athletic talent while navigating ups and downs as a rookie, and after a summer in which he participated in Summer League and flirted with the possibility of playing the 3 as well as the 4, Williams came back having lost nearly 15 pounds and looked physically ready to handle whatever workload Minnesota threw his way.
It’s a good thing, too, because Williams picked up a substantial amount of minutes and responsibility in 2012-13.
With Kevin Love out due to two hand injuries and a late-season knee surgery, Williams became a staple of the Wolves’ lineup last year. He played in 78 games and started 56, and across the board he improved his statistical output from his rookie year. Williams averaged 12.0 points per game, shot 43.0 percent from the field, added in 5.5 boards a night and upped his 3-point efficiency by seven percentage points to 33.2 percent.
He’s continuing to learn the game. Williams entered the league at 20 years old and just turned 22 last week. He’s continuing to develop consistency to his game, and he’s figuring out as he goes how much of a factor he can be when he remains aggressive. When he simply plays without hesitation—especially with his mid-range and perimeter game—he is far more effective.
“I think there’s a reason why they drafted me so high, and I’m having fun,” Williams said at the end of the season. “I’m having a lot more fun this year, I have a lot more opportunities. I’m just trying to get out there and play. That’s what I’ve been doing lately.”
Williams improved his rebounding, and as a result he had eight games this year during which he had a double-double. At times, particularly in the final two months, he owned the glass during the first quarter and set the tone for the remainder of the contest. Unlike Love, who is masterful at his positioning around the basket and generates rebounds that way, Williams can play above the rim while pulling down boards. He became much more of a threat in transition once he and Ricky Rubio began getting more minutes together on the court—that being a product of Rubio returning from ACL surgery—and Williams became a target for fast-break baskets much more frequently in March and April.
What’s most intriguing about Williams is there is so much upside still there to be developed. He’s got two full years under his belt, has stayed healthy in both and shows flashes throughout the year of the type of athleticism he can provide. If the Wolves stay healthy and Williams continues to progress, there’s no telling what type of player he will be a year or two down the road.
Highlight of the Year
Sometimes it’s hard to pick just one of Williams’ highlight-reel dunks as the best one, but one of his last of the year might have been his best. Williams climbed the ladder on April 15 against the Jazz, took an alley-oop pass from Luke Ridnour and threw down an enormous one-handed slam over Derrick Favors. What added to that dunk was the aggressiveness at the rim and the way he let loose emotion afterwards. When D-Will is at his best, that’s the type of behavior we see out of him on the court. We’ve seen countless connections like that during his two years in the league, and that April 15 slam embodied many of them perfectly.
Top Performance of the Year
Williams had a standout game on March 17 in a Wolves 97-95 win over the New Orleans Hornets at Target Center. D-Will had a career-high 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting in the game, including going 3-of-5 from 3-point range and showing off his athleticism with a monster two-handed slam in transition in the third quarter. Williams added seven rebounds and hit 7-of-10 free-throws on the night. It came during the month of March, which was statistically the best month of his career. He finished March 2013 with 15.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
The Wolves will likely again explore the possibility of Williams rotating to the 3 along with playing the 4 next year—largely due to the fact that the team expects a full bill of health out of Kevin Love, who in 2011-12 averaged nearly 40 minutes per game. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for Williams on the floor even if the team does at times play Love at the 5 alongside D-Will. Adelman does like Love in that spot because he can stretch opponents’ bigs away from the basket, but Love will play the majority of his minutes at power forward. Adelman said he does think the two can play side-by-side, whether it’s playing Williams at the 3 or the 4.
“If he wants to play more than 15 minutes [per game], he’s going to have to learn to play the other spot, too,” Adelman said. “That’s going to be the key. If he’s going to work on that, if it’s going to happen. I think it can happen. I thought at the start of Training Camp he was doing a pretty good job, but then it kind of went away. It’s kind of a matter of how much he grows, how much he works this summer.”
Williams will be tasked with pushing himself to stay ahead of the play, to not hesitate when he’s got an open look and to work on how he attacks the basket. Being able to impact the game when he doesn’t have the ball is something players in Adelman’s offense are tasked with doing, and Williams will be challenged to limit the idle time he has on the court. At times he clutches during an open look, then fires once a defender is in his face. He improved last year at getting to the free-throw line, and being able to take contact and finish will be another part of his game he’ll be working on.
Williams said he will be working out in L.A. during the offseason. He shares the same strength and conditioning training as Love, so the two will likely see one another at the weight room throughout the offseason.
Williams said consistency and focus are his two main objectives as well as knocking down his mid-range shot. Being able to get to the paint with more regularity, especially from farther out if he does get time at the 3 next year, will be important. “This summer is going to be big for me,” Williams said. “I can really feel myself having a good offseason leading up to next year.”
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