It has been a little more than 18 months since the Timberwolves took Derrick Williams second overall in the 2011 draft, but it appears the team is already close to cutting its losses on the 6'8" tweener forward. Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio wrote today that it would be surprising if Williams were still in Minnesota after the deadline, and it's certainly not the first time his name has been mentioned in connection with trades.
Williams figures to see more minutes while Kevin Love is out for "a number of weeks" after breaking his hand again. It may represent one more chance for Williams to show his worth to the Wolves, and an opportunity for Minnesota to showcase him for other teams. So far, we haven't seen much of the Arizona product on the floor, as he's averaged just 20.3 minutes per game for his career, and is seeing even less time this year than he did as a rookie. Agent Rob Pelinka, stopping short of a trade request, has "voiced his displeasure" about Williams' limited role on the team, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reported last month.
His lack of minutes persists despite more efficient play this season, as most of his per-36 minute numbers are up, and he's once more showing hints of the three-point accuracy he displayed in college, knocking down 38% of his attempts from behind the arc. His PER has jumped to 15.6 from 12.9 in 2011/12, indicating that he's performing at a slightly above-average level. Still, slightly above average is not the caliber of play anyone expects from someone drafted No. 2 overall.
That's why he's largely regarded as a secondary figure in the trade rumors he's been a part of. Though Wolves GM David Kahn denies having spoken to the Lakers since the summer, Minnesota has reportedly has been offering Williams and Nikola Pekovic to L.A. since last season in an effort to land Pau Gasol. The Wolves would like to make Williams the centerpiece of a deal for Anderson Varejao, but the Cavs predictably have little interest in that. He's been linked to the Magic as part of a J.J. Redick deal, but the Magic apparently aren't as high on Williams as other teams are.
It isn't clear which teams, if any, are willing to give Kahn and company what they want for Williams. He makes some sense as a stretch four in Mike D'Antoni's system with the Lakers, who might be more intrigued if the Wolves offered Williams in tandem with someone other than the ground-bound, soon-to-be free agent Pekovic, a poor fit with Dwight Howard. The Raptors may be open to parting with Andrea Bargnani for Williams and Pekovic, but I'm not sure Kahn would want to absorb Bargnani's eight-figure salary through 2015. The Suns figure to be an active participant in deadline deals and already traded for Wesley Johnson, another of Minnesota's highly drafted disappointments, but Phoenix appears set at power forward with Markieff Morris and Luis Scola's cap-friendly, post-amnesty deal.
Kevin Love, when healthy, has a stranglehold on the power forward position in Minnesota, so if Williams has any future with the team, it will be at small forward. For now, he's blocked there by Andrei Kirilenko, who has a $10.2MM player option for next season. If he exercises it, there's little chance Williams would become a starter until 2014/15 at the earliest, and by then the deadline for the Wolves to decide whether to extend his rookie deal will have already passed. Even if Williams shows a degree of improvement while Love is out, Minnesota is probably better off trading him, unless he suddenly turns into a nightly 20 and 10 threat over the next few weeks. Williams' value decreases when he idles on the bench, so as long as there's a reasonable offer on the table when Love returns, the Wolves should take it.