Former Minnesota Timberwolves teammate sees progress in Derrick Williams

Derrick Williams makes a baseline move against Chase Budinger of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

Derrick Williams has yet to play a full season in a Sacramento Kings uniform. That doesn’t mean he still feels like the new kid in class.

Williams has played 51 games for the Kings since being acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves back in November. The two trades that followed, including the acquisition of veteran forward Rudy Gay, makes Williams’ deal from Minneapolis feel like ages ago.

“I’m not the new guy anymore,” Williams said recently before the Kings hit the road for a seven-game trip. “(There are) a few other guys that have came here after me.”

Tomorrow, he visits his old stomping grounds for the final time this season. Former teammates like J.J. Barea are happy to see him embracing his new opportunity in the capital city.  The 29-year-old veteran built a solid relationship with Williams in the Twin Cities and had nothing but good things to say about Williams, calling him a consummate teammate and funny guy to have in the locker room.

“I think he’s taken advantage of it,” Barea said before the Timberwolves’ previous visit to Sacramento about what he’s seen out of Williams since the trade. “I think he’s a talented kid. The more he plays and the more opportunity he gets, he’s gonna get better.”

Williams has shown flashes of brilliance since arriving in Sacramento. His athleticism, particularly his ability to make the highlight play, is a reminder of why he was taken second overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. Barea says there were many instances like that in Minnesota where the 22-year-old forward would show glimpses of his potential.

“He had all those moments where you’re like ‘Oh my God – he can be really good,’” Barea said of Williams. “But he’s still really young, so if he keeps learning, if he keeps taking advantage of an opportunity, he could be really good.”

Is Williams a small forward or is he a power forward? There’s plenty debate about this dating back to his time as a prospect coming out of Arizona. Kings head coach Michael Malone has not shied away from using Williams at either position depending on the matchup or situation.  In Sacramento’s last game against the 76ers, Malone started Williams at power forward in place of veteran Jason Thompson.

Barea, however, believes the debate is a needless one. In the eyes of the eight-year veteran, what position Williams plays is inconsequential. Instead, Barea feels that his former teammate’s play on the defensive end of the floor will be a greater predictor of Williams’ future success in the NBA.

“It doesn’t matter,” Barea said when asked what position Williams is best suited at playing. “As long as he plays hard and plays defense, his offense is always going to be there, so he’ll be straight.”

Williams may not be the new guy in Sacramento anymore, but he is still one of the young ones. He’s the third-youngest player on the roster behind rookies Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum. And since being selected second overall in the 2011 NBA Draft, he has yet to play an entire 82-game schedule.

Despite being three years into his NBA career, Williams still has a ways to go. However, his former Timberwolves teammate believes he’s headed in the right direction.

“I think when he gets more consistent minutes and stuff like that in a couple years, he’s gonna get better every year,” Barea said. “I think he’s doing a great job (since) he got here so hopefully he can keep it going.”

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.