Phil Ervin: Trade is best thing for Derrick Williams, Wolves

MINNEAPOLIS — At long last, some closure.

Rick Adelman no longer has to decide what the heck to do
with Derrick Williams. Derrick Williams no longer has to wonder what the heck’s
going to be done with him.

The Timberwolves get a better fit for their playoff push.
The Kings get a piece they feel can help them rebuild.

But the real winner here is Williams.

After being swapped for Luc Mbah a Moute, he’ll be in a
place where he has a chance to grow gradually, not sporadically. If first-year
Kings coach Mike Malone has any sense, Williams will have an opportunity at
power forward, his natural position.

But best of all — unless you’re a long-suffering Sacramento
fan who’s just thrilled there’s still a team in town — the Kings aren’t trying
to win now. They’re in building mode, a draft and a free-agent class or two
away from, if general manager Pete D’Allesandro does his part, a return to the
playoff contention headed up by Adelman back in the early 2000s.

Which means Williams, under contract through 2014-15, has
time to construct something, himself.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft never did that in
Minneapolis, first warming the bench behind Kevin Love, then thrust into a
starter’s role he wasn’t ready for last season when Love went down. The only
way he ever would’ve meant a lick to Adelman’s schemes would have been to morph
into a two-way forward that could play the wing as effectively as the low post.

New president of basketball operations Flip Saunders gave
Williams a chance to do that. He tried, dropping weight and working on his
outside shot this summer.

But as evidenced by Robbie Hummel’s emergence as the
Timberwolves’ top wing off the bench and Dante Cunningham’s steady presence as
a backup four, Adelman didn’t trust Williams. Not enough to give him sustained
minutes this year — try 14.7 per game and five DNP’s this year (one was due to
back spasms).

He won’t just step in and assume the big-time duties his
draft position would seem to indicate. Current power forwards Jason Thompson
and Patrick Patterson have split starts at power forward, and Williams replaces
a small forward, meaning the versatility experiment involving him is heading

But there’s more time for it now. And less pressure,
presumably. (NOTE: Reports out of Sacramento on Tuesday said Williams would start at the three Friday against the Clippers.)

Don’t expect some sudden blossoming; Williams, for all his
sheer length and athleticism, has a long way to go. If ever he is to man both
forward spots, his 3-point shooting (29.8 percent for his career) and
at-the-rim finishing must improve. Dramatically.

It’s what prevented him from paying off for the team that
drafted him — another David Kahn pick that didn’t work out. Of the four
top-six picks Kahn made in three years as president of basketball ops, only
Ricky Rubio is still around.

In return, Flip Saunders and Milt Newton have put yet
another stamp on their revamped roster. He’s a Cameroonian prince. He’s got
knee problems, and he doesn’t score much.

But Mbah a Moute gives the Timberwolves another defensive
stopper on the wing to complement Corey Brewer. He can defend both the three
and the four and, more importantly, he’s comfortable on the wing.

By all accounts, the sixth-year pro is dynamite in the
locker room, too, another character to go with Brewer, Ronny Turiaf and the
rest of Minnesota’s eclectic bunch.

Mbah a Moute spent five years in Milwaukee before being
traded in exchange for two second-round draft picks, which freed up cap space
for the Bucks to bring in former Timberwolves guard Luke Ridnour this

It’s an ever-evolving operation, breaking that nasty
nine-year playoff drought, and Saunders made it clear he wasn’t finished after
signing Brewer and Kevin Martin this offseason. Williams’ exit is the next step
toward a team that better fits Saunders’ mold and Adelman’s systems.

In the end, Williams fit neither. The best fit for him
always was somewhere other than the Twin Cities.

Anywhere else.

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