The word bust is often thrown around like dirty laundry. It’s common to knock high draft picks that don’t immediately produce after their first year or two in the league. It’s normal.
Derrick Williams had an uninspiring rookie campaign, averaging just 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 21.5 minutes per game. He drew the ire of his coach for his work ethic. He picked up the dreaded “tweener” label. It was so bad for Williams that even during the scoring-fest that is the Rising Stars Challenge at NBA All-Star Weekend, he managed just two points as a member of Team Chuck. The weekend would get worse — he participated in one of the most sleep-inducing dunk contests of all time. This is to say nothing of the lockout-shortened abridged training camp and terrible schedule rookies endured a season ago. Quite frankly, Williams had a rookie year to forget.
As a result, rumors about management’s unhappiness with the Arizona product swirled. His name was floated in trade rumors leading up to the 2012 Draft and throughout the summer. Just one year after he was drafted No. 2 overall, the T-Wolves were shopping him like a sale item in the Mall of Americas.
Despite the clearance rack signs placed on him, suitors were lukewarm and Williams found himself back in the Twin Cities. He began the season as the starting power forward for the first nine games due to Kevin Love‘s first hand injury. The return of Love slowed Williams and shortened his playing time. He saw just 13.9 minutes a game in the 18 contests Love stayed healthy. But since January 5, when Love suffered a second hand injury, Williams is averaging 28.8 minutes a game and has started 25 of Minnesota’s 31 games.
As a starter Williams is improving, averaging 13.2 points and 6.9 rebounds. But since the All-Star break, he is posting 18.0 points and 8.6 rebounds… numbers worthy of a No. 2 pick. He is playing closer to the basket with 41 percent of his shots coming within eight feet or less, seemingly embracing the role of a power forward, yet one who can still step out for a jumper.
He has earned the trust of his coach and while some of that may be out of necessity with all of the T-Wolves injuries, Williams is producing and thriving. The end of his season could again be greatly impacted by the return of Kevin Love, who is eyeing a mid-March return. Nevertheless, Williams made his mark this season and if nothing else, raised his trade value should the Wolves want to dust off those “for sale” signs they had on him over the summer.
He is just a little past the midway point of his second season in the league and it appears the early reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated. Williams is still developing.
It remains to be seen if we have seen the @RealDWill7 as his twitter handle implies. But he’s certainly no bust.