MINNEAPOLIS — The seemingly constant trade rumors swirling around Derrick Williams are no more.
The perception of many became reality for all Timberwolves stakeholders Monday, when Minnesota and Sacramento worked out a deal that sends Williams westward in exchange for Luc Mbah a Moute. Both sides signed off on it Tuesday.
“We are excited to acquire a solid veteran player in Luc Mbah a Moute,” Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said in a statement. “Luc is known as one of the premier defensive players in the league with an ability to guard multiple positions. 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.”
Almost since the day former Minnesota president of basketball operations David Kahn drafted Williams second overall in 2011, his name has been cast around as possible trade bait. Few saw how a power forward by nature could justify such a high draft position while cleaning up after All-Star Kevin Love.
Unless, of course, Williams could develop into a flex forward capable of playing both the wing and the post in Rick Adelman’s system. The coach tried it out during Williams’ rookie year in sports, but he never quite lived up to his draft status, shooting 41.2 percent from the floor and 26.8 from 3-point range while averaging 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 21.5 minutes per game.
Hand injuries and knee surgery for Love gave Williams a chance to start 56 games at his more natural position last season. He averaged 15.2 points and 6.6 rebounds during his final 33 games, which lent credence to his development but also to his trade value.
So Williams’ Minnesota future appeared tentative even heading into this season. New personnel czar and former coach Saunders talked him up during the summer, claiming Williams could still work as a versatile forward off the bench.
Saunders went so far as to pick up the $6.3 million team option on Williams’ contract for next year, but his support now looks like nothing more than a sales pitch to possibly interested teams.
Turns out Sacramento general manager Pete D’Alessandro was willing to listen.
Even with Williams averaging 4.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game this season, the Kings were willing to give up Mbah a Moute, who they acquired in a trade with Milwaukee this past summer. In five seasons with the Bucks, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound Cameroon native averaged 25.1 minutes, 6.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Mbah a Moute doesn’t give the Timberwolves the added scoring threat they could use off the bench, but he is a more versatile defensive option that can defend both forward positions, unlike Williams. Knee problems have hampered Mbah a Moute’s career, including last year, when he missed 24 games.
Mbah a Moute is under contract through the 2014-15 season for $9 million. This season, he appeared in nine games and averaged 7.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 21.8 minutes per game.
The move reunites him with former UCLA teammate Love. The two played together for the Bruins in 2007-08 before both turned pro.
The trade saves the Timberwolves about $2.3 million. Williams is owed $11.3 million by the end of next season, while Luc Mbah a Moute’s contract calls for $9 million before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2015.