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Minnesota Timberwolves: Is Derrick Williams Already a Bust?

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Commentary | The first month of his second NBA season isn't even over, but fans are already declaring Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams a bust. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Williams showed flashes of potential last season, but his average of 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 21:30 minutes per game were not what Timberwolves fans and team officials hoped for when they selected the highly-touted former Arizona Wildcat.

Sure, there was that 27 point, five rebound performance in a 109-97 win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 28. And then there was that 27 point, 8 rebound performance in a 113-107 loss at Denver on April 11. But before and after those games there were too many disappearing acts. In 66 games last year Williams scored five or less points in 24 games. He had double digit rebounds in only four games.

It's not getting any better this year. With Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio sidelined general manager David Kahn, head coach Rick Adelman and Timberwolves nation were looking for Williams to take his game to the next level. When Love got hurt, fans thought now is the time where Williams will prove with consistent playing time, he will shine. But through eight games this season and with additional injuries to J.J. Barea, Nikola Pekovic and Chase Budinger leaving the team desperate for someone to step up, Williams is averaging only 8.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in 22 minutes a game. He's also shooting a paltry 32% from the field.

With the team down to nine healthy players in an 89-87 loss to Charlotte Tuesday Nov. 13, Williams played only 23:14, less than guys like Malcolm Lee, Dante Cunningham and Alexey Shved. He also made only three of nine shots and missed a free throw with 12.3 seconds remaining that would have given the Wolves an 87-86 lead.

So, what's going on with DWill? Is it confidence? Is it lack of ability to take his high-flying college act and turn into more of a well-rounded NBA game? Every year there is one player who comes to training camp slimmed down and ready to break out. Williams was that guy this year. It was all about how with less weight and a better understanding of Adelman's system he was ready to flourish. It's not happening. Will it ever happen? Timberwolves faithful and local media are getting restless judging by recent Twitter posts and message board fodder.

Phil Mackey, a radio personality for ESPN 1500 AM in the Twin Cities tweeted this on Nov. 14 via @PMac21 "Derrick Williams, for whatever reason, is not good at basketball."

A thread within KFAN Rube Chat, the message board of KFAN 100.3 FM, the Twin Cities sports talk radio station, titled Derrick Williams, I'm not with him for the rest of the year, generated 202 responses and 4,200 page views as of the afternoon of Nov. 16. Most of it not favorable.

A poster named P3B said this about Williams: "He doesn't have a place on this team. Bad bball IQ, plenty of guys on our roster who can outplay him. Trade him for a shooter."

A poster named gato21 said this: "He doesn't seem to know how to play team basketball. He can go off and be dominant occasionally but Adelman doesn't like guys like that, Cunningham is a better fit."

It's almost like Williams knows fans are getting restless too, judging by his bio on his Twitter feed - @RealDwill7, which reads "Forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves but an Arizona Wildcat for life. Hated by many, wanted by plenty, disliked by some, confronted by none."

To be fair, there are still people who believe in Williams, like a KFAN poster named Krazygunshow, who said this about Williams: "Give the kid time. How many great players lit it up day one? I seen (SIC) the kid making lighting fast cuts in the first, jumping out the gym and taking it to the rim. Out of everybody that didn't have a great game he wasn't even the worst. Minnesota fans need to calm down."

My take: Maybe Krazygun show is right. As negative as it has been, I agree. It's one disappointing rookie season followed by a slow start to the second season. But these thoughts from Timberwolves fans that Williams doesn't care, is just nonsense. People see him on the bench, not playing and say that he's sulking. So what if he is? You should be mad if he's not, because he wants to be in there, making plays, making an impact. He's a good guy in the community and isn't a knucklehead (see Michael Beasley). That's why I'm rooting for him. Maybe hoping is a better word. As a Timberwolves fan, this season started out with great hope, even with the Rubio, and then, Love injuries. And I still have hope, hope that when all is said and done Derrick Williams made an impact.

He clearly is lacking in confidence, his body language just wreaks of uncertainty. And when things go bad, players play tighter, afraid to not screw up instead of playing loose, or as Kevin Harlan would say "with no regard for human life." I actually think Williams will improve when Love returns. If he's on the floor with the game's best rebounder and a player who commands so much attention, it's only going to free up Williams. And when Rubio comes back, he'll get a few easy baskets, possibly even a few highlight reel dunks, which will only boost his confidence.

Williams may never live up to the hype of a No. 2 overall pick. But a bust? Not yet.

Matt Krumrie is a Twin Cities-based freelance sports writer who covers local and national youth, high school, college and professional sports. He has been published in over 100 newspapers, magazines and websites.

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