Trade analysis: Why Luc Mbah a Moute for Derrick Williams makes sense

Derrick Williams faces up against Raymond Felton. (Photo: Frank Franklin III, AP) The Sacramento Kings pulled off a high-reward, low-risk trade this morning, sending Luc Mbah a Moute to Minnesota for Derrick Williams.  There are plenty of folks who are completely confused by the deal and for good reason.  Mbah a Moute played just nine games in a Kings uniform, including the last five as a starter. He looked like he was just starting to get comfortable with his teammates and his defensive abilities were the best this team has seen in a while.

Did Luc Mbah a Moute not fit the mold of what the Kings were looking for?  Did he not perform up to snuff?  Did his history of knee ailments make the Kings think twice about keeping him on the books for this year and next?  Or was Williams the player the Kings wanted and the cost was Mbah a Moute?

Those are questions for general manager Pete D’Alessandro.  Clearly he wants to put his own stamp on the Kings’ roster.  It is surprising that his first in-season move was to trade away a player that he added to the roster this summer through a different trade, but the goal is to improve the level of talent on the roster.

You never really find out all of the nuts and bolts to these deals, but it’s safe to safe that D’Alessandro wants to collect as many assets as possible.  He wants to get younger and he wants to bring in his own players.  Trading a 27-year-old Mbah a Moute for a 22-year-old Derrick Williams brings in a younger player and adds to the overall talent level of the Kings’ roster.

Who is Derrick Williams?

The second overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft has yet to make his mark in the NBA.  Lost in Rick Adelman‘s rotation in Minnesota, he has lived through more than one season of trade rumors.  In fact, his entire career has been one rumor after another.

At 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, Williams is a combo-forward who has yet to fully make the transition to the NBA game.  He has plenty of potential, but to date, his production has left something to be desired.  That is what this trade really amounts to – trading a level of production for potential.

For his career, Williams averages 10.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in 22.6 minutes per contest.  He is a career 42-percent shooter from the field and has hit just 30 percent of his 349 3-point attempts.  He has a career PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 13.8 in his two-plus seasons in the league and a true shooting percentage of 50.6 percent.

Williams’ shooting chart from last season doesn’t exactly build confidence in what the former Arizona Wildcat brings to the table.  He can score at the rim, but outside of the protected area, Williams is all over the board.  I’m not even sure where to start.  With most players, shot charts help develop an identity for a player that you can build around.  If a player excels on the right baseline, it becomes a coach’s responsibility to get that player to that position on the floor.  But when you see a shot chart that looks like someone used an uzi and not a target pistol, you add a new layer to the puzzle.

Derrick Williams

Malone needs to do more than get Williams to the proper spot on the floor.  He needs to choose two or three spots and force Williams to develop his game around those areas.  The left elbows looks like a solid place to start, but Williams needs to buy in.  It’s not uncommon to see a spray chart like this from a young player, but Williams needs to rethink his game and do some real thinking about shot selection.

Where Williams has shown real potential is a rebounder.  For his career, he has a total rebounding percentage of 12.4 percent, which includes a defensive rebounding percentage of 19.5 percent.  He isn’t Dennis Rodman, but he can provide a skill that neither Patterson nor the injured Carl Landry can.

How does Williams fit with the Sacramento Kings?

The Kings will most likely give Williams a look at the small forward position, which once again has an opening.  Williams has worked hard to slim down to play the position, but the jury is still out.  Flip Saunders and Rick Adelman made the decision that he can not play the small forward position in Minnesota’s current offensive scheme, but that doesn’t mean that Malone can’t give it a shot.  If he can’t work at the three, he will have to earn his minutes at the crowded power forward position.

Jason Thompson is currently manning the four, but the longest-tenured King looks uncomfortable in coach Michael Malone’s system.  Be it lack of confidence or an attempt to make a good impression gone sideways, Thompson’s game is all over the place right now.  Malone has used him to space the floor and to his credit, Thompson has don an excellent job of knocking down the 18-20 foot jumper from the top of the key.  If Thompson wants to hold onto the job, he needs to refocus, rebound and play better defense.

Behind Thompson is a player with a very similar skill set to Williams in Patrick Patterson.  Williams is more athletic and a better rebounder, but up until this season, Patterson was the superior perimeter shooter.  D’Alessandro wants a true floor spacer next to center DeMarcus Cousins to give the big man some room to work.  The player who finds his range first on the corner 3-ball is likely to get the bulk of the minutes.  If neither player finds the range, then it will come down to rebounding and defense.

Why deal Luc Mbah a Moute after just 13 games?

Mbah a Moute is what he is.  And that is a quality defender with limited offensive skills and a history of knee injuries.  In his five-plus seasons in the league, Mbah a Moute boasts career averages of 6.8 point and 5.3 rebounds in 25 minutes of action.  He is the definition of a role player and that works for a team with playoff aspirations.

The Kings are not a playoff team.  At 4-9, they are team looking to develop young talent this season and are primed to draft in the lottery of an incredible draft.  Williams will get an opportunity to see if he’s the right fit for a team still searching for long-term solutions at multiple positions.  If he can find a home at either forward position, then life gets a little easier for D’Alessandro.

Mbah a Moute will slide right into coach Adelman’s rotation and not miss a beat.  He was also a college teammate of Kevin Love, which can’t hurt.

While it doesn’t feel good to give up on a high draft pick so early in his career, this will go down as the failure of former general manager David Kahn and not the current T-Wolves regime.  If they weren’t going to use Williams, they may as well trade him for a piece that can help them in their attempt to snap a nine-year playoff drought.

So what does this all mean?

This may not work out to be a home run for D’Alessandro, but then again, you never know.  The new general manager of the Sacramento Kings just took two second round picks and parlayed them into the 2nd pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.

Williams is getting a fresh start with a new, young club that is desperate for an insurgence of talent.  He will get every opportunity to prove that he can play the small forward position.  If he can play the wing, the door is wide open for Williams to play major minutes for Malone.  If not, he jumps into the  crowded mix at the power forward position and D’Alessandro would look for another major move between now and the trade deadline.

This is the perfect gamble for D’Alessandro.  Luc Mbah a Moute was never a long-term fix for the Kings.  If Williams can fit in, he might be.


James Ham

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