Wolves Get Defensive Wing Help In Exchange For Williams

by Mark Remme
Web Editor

Wolves Get Defensive Wing Help In Exchange For Williams

As the early stages of the 2013-14 season played out, you got the impression that Derrick Williams might not be on the roster for the duration of the campaign. His minutes remained scarce, and he was surpassed by Robbie Hummel on the depth chart in many situations over the past week and a half. For all his athletic talent, he didn’t bring as much defensive acumen to the table and he didn’t seem to fit into the type mold coach Rick Adelman looked for offensively—particularly the way he moved without the ball.

Still, Williams was a former No. 2 overall pick—the highest draft pick in team history—and his high-flying ability was, and is, something to take into account. It was a situation where the Wolves front office needed to weigh future potential, this team’s make-up and how to maximize minutes right now.

“You go through a lot of talk about it, and there has been a lot of talk between Rick and me about this,” President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders said. “You sit on it a little bit, and it’s like when you write a letter and you set it in the drawer and you say, ‘Should I really send it or not?’ With Derrick, it was a situation where you’re ready to do it.”

The Wolves made the move on Tuesday, officially announcing they had sent Williams to Sacramento in exchange for forward Luc Mbah a Moute. The deal potentially gives Williams a little more flexibility to play in the 3 and 4 roles with Sacramento, and it allows Minnesota to acquire a rotational wing who both Adelman and Saunders like as a defensive perimeter player.

The move is pending a physical that will take place tomorrow when Mbah a Moute arrives in town, Saunders said. He said Mbah a Moute could suit up on Wednesday night against the Nuggets.

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Saunders shared his admiration for Mbah a Moute on Tuesday stemming from his time coaching against him in the East when Saunders was in Washington and Mbah a Moute was in Milwaukee. He credits Scott Skiles with sharing that hard-nosed defensive mentality as his coach with the Bucks, and it translated to his ability to guard multiple positions, guard pick-and-rolls and allow a little extra flexibility with how Adelman wants to play his bench.

Minnesota’s starters are racking up minutes this season—including Corey Brewer, who has played 38-plus minutes in three of the past four games. This move could give the Wolves a little extra room to work with their rotation and their depth.

That helps in the interim, certainly, and will act as an additional complement to injured swingman Chase Budinger, who continues to work his way back from knee surgery.

Saunders said Mbah a Moute was a player the Wolves looked at extensively during the summer while feeling out some of their offseason moves. They talked about the possibility of a package for him in pre-draft discussions, and they also talked about finding a way to involve him in the sign-and-trade that brought Kevin Martin to Minnesota and sent Luke Ridnour to Milwaukee.

The bottom line is Minnesota likes what the 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward has to offer.

“If you look at our wings, and listen, they’ve been very effective for us. They’ve played very well, but they’re more on the thin side,” Saunders said. “You need to have some presence at those positions, whether you’re playing against [Kevin] Durant or you’re playing against LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony or right on down the list. Usually small forwards have the ability to score. Having someone defensively who can play [multiple positions] will help us. It gives coach more flexibility to use Corey at more of the 2, too.”

In order to make the move and bolster the bench, the Wolves needed to give something up. That happened to be Williams, who didn’t quite fit in with what the Wolves were looking for with this team. He was a celebrated draft pick two years ago, and he certainly showcased ups and downs here in Minnesota. But with Love putting up huge numbers and playing significant minutes, where does Williams get his floor time? Add in Dante Cunningham being one of the team’s top defensive performers, and that takes even more floor time away at the power forward spot.

This move allows Williams to move on to perhaps a better situation for him, and it perhaps gives the Wolves the type of rotation wing they were seeking. And with Williams not necessarily gaining more playing time moving forward, Saunders said the timing of this move seemed to fit.

Sometimes, moves are best for all parties involved.

“We thought where we were at, Derrick was having a tough time getting on the floor,” Saunders said. “I really believe coming to the conclusion that he was really a power forward, his transition to the small forward wasn’t beneficial for him or for us. And our best player being Kevin Love, it was time to move on.”

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.

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