Derrick Williams becomes latest addition to Wolves' youthful core
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MINNEAPOLIS --- On a topsy-turvy draft night that saw the Minnesota Timberwolves make six trades, the team emerged holding onto No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams.
Despite rabid trade speculation, the Wolves took the 6-foot-9 forward out of Arizona with their highest NBA Draft selection in team history. President of basketball operations David Kahn adamantly pointed out during his post-draft press conference that he sees Williams playing a crucial role in the team's future plans.
"We did not draft Derrick Williams to put him into a deal," Kahn said. "We believe he could be on a very significant trajectory and become a very fine player."
Williams, who played two seasons with the Wildcats, is an explosive forward with the size and quickness to play at both the three and the four.
"I was very impressed with his workout here, the way, how quick his feet were for a man that size, a young man that size," Kahn said. "And his ability to put the ball on the floor was even better than I'd anticipated."
Drafting Williams was the Wolves' only move that went according to many pre-draft predictions. While nothing is official until the league approves it, the Wolves reportedly traded their pick at No. 20 (Donatas Motiejunas) to Houston in exchange for 35-year-old center Brad Miller and the No. 23 and No. 38 picks, as well as a future first-rounder.
It didn't stop there. They then moved the 23rd pick to the Bulls for picks 28 and 43, plus cash considerations. In a strange twist, the Wolves shipped their selection at 28 to Miami for pick No. 31, which was originally part of the deal that brought in forward Michael Beasley last season. The selection at No. 43 was used on UCLA point guard Malcolm Lee, who for now appears headed for Minnesota.
With the addition of Williams, the Wolves now have a backlog of forwards, especially at the three. If the team keeps Williams at his natural position of small forward, he'll join Beasley and Wesley Johnson. It will force the team to continually tinker with its lineup to find the right balance.
"I acknowledge it may not fit perfectly," Kahn said. "In fact, I can assure you it won't. I think it will require some real creativity in how we play."
At an average age of 24 years old, the Wolves were the NBA's youngest team last season. They appear to be on their way to upholding that title next season, which is concerning to Kahn.
"We have a painfully young team," Kahn said. "That's tough. It's hard on the organization. It's hard on the coaching staff. It's hard on the players. So I had great reticence to continue to add rookie after rookie after rookie to a team that, frankly, needs a few veterans."
Acquiring Miller is part of Kahn's call for experienced players, but with the seasoned center recovering from microfracture knee surgery, he may not be an answer to any of the Wolves' problems.
Along with Miller, guard Luke Ridnour, center Darko Milicic and Sebastian Telfair are the only players on the current roster who have spent more than seven years in the NBA. That puts increased pressure on the team when free agency begins.
"We now have to very aggressive in the free agency market to sprinkle in more veteran players" Kahn said. "We have to. ... We're just too young, and we all know that."
But the core of next year's squad will be its slew of talented, developing players. With Kevin Love solidified as the team's star, the Wolves will need an increased contribution from Beasley and Johnson, both of whom showed glimmers of potential last year, but were at times inconsistent. They are also banking heavily on Ricky Rubio making a smooth transition to the NBA.
Whether Williams is the final piece in finally jump-starting the Wolves' revitalization is unknown, but the 20-year-old forward has high aspirations.
"I want to be that guy to turn this franchise around," Williams said.