There’s no secret that this will be a pivotal summer for the Timberwolves, who made gargantuan strides this season before ultimately being decimated by injuries.
Kevin Love has ascended to superstar status. Ricky Rubio ignited a moribund club with his flair and effectiveness. Nikola Pekovic established himself as one of the most offensively gifted big men in the league. Derrick Williams showed flashes of brilliance — paired with flashes of incompetence.
OK, so “incompetence” might be a bit harsh, but Williams often looked lost, especially on the defensive end. Still, he remains a crucial piece of the Wolves’ rebuilding effort. The rookie from Arizona was essentially miscast as a power forward in 2011-12. That, combined with the relentless, lockout-shortened slate did Williams few favors — there was little practice time to work on his game, and he was backing up basketball’s best power forward, Love.
That being said, the youngster showed way too much potential for the Wolves to give up on him. In April, T-Wolves czar David Kahn said the team’s only untouchable players were Love and Rubio. Williams, though, needs to be included in that group, along with Pekovic. That’s a terrific core around which to build, four young, ultra-talented players that could reinvigorate a team that really hasn’t been relevant since Kevin Garnett was shipped to Boston.
Coach Rick Adelman at times seemed frustrated with Williams, impatient even. But there’s no shame in a rookie being inconsistent, especially when considering the madness that was this past season, with games packed together like sardines.
From the Associated Press:
“He’s had his moments, but I think the biggest thing is we’d like to see him be much more consistent,” Adelman said. “He’s like a lot of rookies, he just has to improve there. Not having the summer to see him when the season started probably had something to do with it. This summer is going to be a big one for him.”
Williams would be wise to take a page out of Love’s offseason-conditioning playbook. Love shed about 25 pounds and reported for this season looking like a Chuck Norris clone. The result was a mesmerizing season in which the UCLA product became a top-five player and boasted legitimate MVP credentials before the Wolves’ season got derailed by the Rubio injury and before Love was sidelined with a concussion.
Imagine Williams next season after a full summer of working out and practicing as a small forward. How much better will he be if he sticks to a serious regimen?
And why would the Wolves give up on that?
More from the AP:
There were plenty of games, though, where Williams showed his true potential. He scored 27 points and hit all four 3-pointers in a victory over the Clippers in Los Angeles on Feb. 28. He had 22 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to the Lakers on March 9 and 27 points and eight boards to help rally the Timberwolves from a huge deficit in a narrow loss at Denver on April 11.
There’s something there. The kid can play and, given time and patience, he could emerge into a bona fide small forward stud. Alongside Love, Rubio and Pekovic, that’s something worth getting excited over. And the Wolves haven’t exactly been awash in excitement the past few years.