Earlier today, the Sacramento Kings completed a trade that netted them a former No. 2 overall pick. Derrick Williams, a third-year forward out of Arizona, was acquired by the Kings in exchange for veteran Luc Mbah a Moute.
For the Kings, the move to get Williams isn’t so much about now, but more so about the future. Williams, who’s played sparingly since being selected second in the 2011 NBA Draft, is just 22 and fits in with the Kings’ long-term approach of reshaping the franchise.
“You take into consideration who Luc Mbah a Moute is, (a defender), and we only brought him here a few months ago for those very reasons,” Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro said following practice Tuesday. ”So there’s many sleepless nights when you think about those things, but I guess that in some ways you have to think bigger.
“You have to think about we have new things about to come – new arenas, new things,” D’Alessandro added. ”And in the big picture, what is the right fit for the Sacramento Kings? And we’ve (taken) another step in that direction there.”
Williams wasn’t able to find his place with Timberwolves under former-Kings-turned-Wolves coach Rick Adelman. The Timberwolves had hopes of developing him into a small forward, but that resulted in little success in Adelman’s system. Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders told media in Minneapolis today that they concluded Williams was best suited at power forward and that “(his) transition to small forward was just not beneficial to him or for us.”
However in Sacramento, Williams will continue to get a look at small forward. Head coach Michael Malone plans on using Williams at both forward spots, but currently plans on utilizing the third-year player mostly at the three.
“Right now obviously with losing Luc, there’s a void at the three spot,” said Malone, who likes the athleticism and youth that Williams adds to his roster. “So Derrick is going to get time at the three and he’s also going to get time at the four. We’ll put him in as many positions as we can for him to have success. And if that proves to be the four, then it’ll be at the four. But right now, he’s gonna play three for us and he’ll also slide to the four at times.”
D’Alessandro also believes that Williams is versatile enough to play small forward. But the Kings GM also doesn’t want to typecast his newest acquisition at any one place in the lineup.
“I mean sometimes we lock ourselves into position, position, position,” D’Alessandro said. ”That’s not a cop-out… There are people who think he’s a four – I get it. But I don’t want to be locked into position. I want athletes. I want guys who can play a role, who can do the things that we need them to do and I think Derrick clearly can do that.”
Kings guard Isaiah Thomas is pretty familiar with Williams’ game. The former Washington Husky played against Williams regularly in college for two seasons as both players attended schools in the Pac-10 Conference. Williams averaged 17.8 points on 58.6 percent shooting and 7.7 rebounds over the course of two years in Tucson.
Though he was initially shocked by the trade, the 24-year-old veteran called his new teammate a versatile talent.
“He could shoot the ball,” Thomas said when asked of what made Williams a challenging opponent in their amateur days. ”He could put the ball on the floor. He could play with his back to the basket a little bit. He was a tough cover in college. I know it’s going to be a new start for him, so I can’t wait to get going with him.”
There is a belief around the Kings that a fresh start is just what Williams needed to jumpstart his career. Acquiring Williams is a low-risk, potentially high-reward move for a franchise in the midst of a massive overall.
“You’re getting a 22-year-old kid who I think just needs a change of scenery,” Malone said of Williams. ”They drafted him, it hasn’t gone well for him in Minnesota, so we’re taking a chance on a kid who was the No. 2 pick in the draft and has a tremendous amount of potential. And we’re going to give him every chance to showcase the potential we believe he has.”
More quotes from D’Alessandro and Malone on Williams
Malone on what he knows about Williams’ defensive ability:
Not a ton. Obviously, he’s not the defender Luc Mbah a Moute is. But what we lose in Luc, we’ve been struggling to score the ball, put the ball in the hole, so Derrick is a guy that can score in a lot of different ways. And he’ll be challenged with what we’re trying to do on the defensive end like everybody else is.
Malone on if Williams’ offensive abilities can help the Kings’ scoring struggles:
I think it’s going to help the whole team. And I think, as we, not just Derrick – no pressure on him to average 20 points for us – (but) as we come in and as our offense improves and hopefully we start making shots, that’s gonna help our defense. In reality, we shoot such a low percentage, teams are getting out and running against us, not giving us a chance to set up our defenses as much as we like. But to have a guy on the wing or next to (DeMarcus Cousins) on the power forward spot that can put pressure on the defense to make plays, now it’s going to be a lot harder to take away DeMarcus. (Opponents) won’t be so willing to put two and three guys on him at times because we have guys who can space the floor and make you pay if you want to do that.
D’Alessandro on how long this deal was in the works:
There’s always something in the works, honestly. Like that’s just the way it is and you talk and you get feelers and you feel things out. I always feel like deals, there’s no deal ‘til there’s a deal. So you always feel like you might be getting close, but close doesn’t mean anything until you get there. So I think in the last hour, it obviously got most close.
D’Alessandro on whether this deal makes the Kings better:
I’m not going to make any projections about what he can do for us (now). The right thing to say would be “Yeah, this is it.” But I’m not going to put that on him, on us or anything. I think we’re a team that is at the beginnings of something and I’ve said that all along. And we’re willing to do whatever we have to do to shuffle things and make things right. And at some point we’re going to find the formula for the Sacramento Kings and for the fans of Sacramento and we hope this is part of that formula.
D’Alessandro on Williams being a former No. 2 overall pick:
Honestly to me being in this business, it’s not about what pick you were. I mean there are guys picked in the second round that are perennial All-Stars. I looked at him. I don’t look at him as the No. 2 pick. I look at Derrick Williams and we look at his body of work and what he did. Last year, he was a scorer. I think he had 12 (points) in 24 minutes last year and that’s pretty effective. I take the numbers side and I look at the numbers really and the player and what he’s been. And you try to project and hopefully you’re more right than you’re wrong. That’s really what this business is.