MINNEAPOLIS — The Timberwolves’ five starters have logged more minutes than any other starting group in the NBA this year, in part because former No. 2 overall draft pick Derrick Williams couldn’t gain the trust of coach Rick Adelman.
Williams is gone. New Wolves President Flip Saunders traded the former No. 2 overall pick to the Sacramento Kings for Luc Mbah a Moute in a deal that was completed on Tuesday morning.
“Luc is known as one of the premier defensive players in the league with an ability to guard multiple positions,” Saunders said in a statement issued by the team. “He adds a lot of energy, grit and a high basketball IQ to our team. We thank Derrick for his contributions to our organization and wish him well in Sacramento.”
Williams was the highest draft pick in franchise history when the Wolves grabbed him in 2011. But his style of play didn’t mesh with Adelman’s system, and the impasse reached a breaking point early this season. Williams missed one game because of back spasms and did not play in four other games as Adelman elected to go with Robbie Hummel and Dante Cunningham with the second unit instead.
Adelman wanted to see more energy from Williams on both ends of court. But Williams often said that he had difficulty getting into the flow of the game with such sporadic minutes. He bounced between small forward and power forward in two-plus years with the Wolves, averaging 10.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
The Kings are hoping Williams can bring some offensive punch to a team that could use some more of it in the frontcourt alongside DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings have been searching for an answer at power forward after Carl Landry went out with a torn hip flexor in the preseason. They’ve used Jason Thompson and Patrick Patterson to varying degrees of success and see Williams as a player who may just need a change of scenery to realize his potential.
Williams is more comfortable playing the power forward, which he showed when filling in for the injured Kevin Love last season. But with Love back healthy this year, and Cunningham earning Adelman’s trust as a veteran off the bench, there was little room for the 22-year-old. Williams played less than 15 minutes per game this season, much of it in garbage time during blowouts.
The move will help the Wolves balance their roster a little bit, relieving a glut at power forward while addressing a weakness at small forward. The 6-foot-8 Mbah a Moute played with Love in college at UCLA and brings some toughness and defensive presence that the Wolves are sorely lacking.
With Chase Budinger still not close to playing while he recovers from knee surgery, the Wolves needed another body to help take some of the pressure off of Corey Brewer as the team’s primary perimeter defender.
Adelman has told others in the organization that he likes Mbah a Moute’s game, an important endorsement if the Wolves were going to cut ties with Williams.
Mbah a Moute’s size will help the Wolves better matchup with some of the toughest covers in the West, including Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, the Clippers’ Blake Griffin and Dirk Nowitzki from Dallas.