'It was time to move on,' Flip Saunders says of Derrick Williams trade
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS -- After a rocky two-year stay, it became obvious Derrick Williams was not the right fit for the Minnesota Timberwolves' formula.
Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders acknowledged as much Tuesday shortly after Minnesota finalized a deal that shipped the 2011 No. 2 overall draft pick to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for veteran forward Luc Mbah a Moute.
"I really believe that we came to the conclusion that he is a power forward," Saunders said of Williams, who the Wolves tried to convert him into more of a wing player at the onset of training camp this year. "His transition to the small forward position was not beneficial for him or for us. Our best player being Kevin Love, it was time to move on."
The move, regardless of outside gripes about selling low, relieves the Wolves of a player who had played sparingly in the first 16 games of the season and brought in one who is geared to factor right away into Minnesota's reserve rotation.
Mbah a Moute, who was in his first year with Sacramento after five seasons with Milwaukee, garnered the attention of Saunders and the Wolves largely because of his keen ability as a defender.
Mbah a Moute, 27, had been on the Wolves' radar since Saunders returned to Minnesota in May, having often game planned against the 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward as head coach of the Washington Wizards.
But any ambition to work out a quick deal early in the offseason subsided slightly when Milwaukee dealt Mbah a Moute to Sacramento in order to free space to bring in Luke Ridnour.
The desire to make a trade heated up again as the season progressed in its early stages and it became more and more apparent Williams was not going to come close to the minutes he logged last season with Love out due to injury. The Wolves wanted to pull off a move that would provide a needed boost to their bench.
On first glance, Mbah a Moute is better suited to blend into the coach Rick Adelman's system. With a 6.8 points per game career scoring average, the Cameroon native has made his mark by being a high-energy and defensively in-tuned player.
Joining Dante Cunningham as another key defensive option off the bench, Mbah a Moute has the skill set to allow Adelman more flexibility with how he uses his rotation.
"He's extremely excited," Saunders remarked about his recent conversation with Mbah a Moute. "He said, 'Hey, I'm coming to a playoff-type team and I can bring something to that team that I don't think that they have - a physical, defensive-type player that is very detail oriented, that has a very high basketball IQ. Because of that he'll fit in."
As of Tuesday afternoon, Mbah a Moute had yet to arrive in the Twin Cities. He must still pass a physical before he officially joins the roster. Recent knee issues have caused him to missed time. Mbah Moute had surgery to repair his right patellar tendon in May 2012 and sat out the bulk of the Kings' preseason this year due to tendonitis in the same knee. However, Saunders said the Wolves did expansive background checks and expects Mbah a Moute to check out without any issues.
The departure of Williams signifies a further cleansing of sorts of the disastrous run of draft picks compiled in former general manager David Kahn's woeful four-year tenure. Apart from All-Star point guard Ricky Rubio, none of the first round selections made by Kahn remain with the Wolves.
There is a certain level of disappointment that comes with parting ways with a high former draft pick before his rookie contract is up. But when it comes to Williams, it simply wasn't working in Minnesota, a concern even Williams' agent, Rob Pelinka, had when the Wolves took the forward out of Arizona at No. 2 in 2011 with Love already on their roster.
The Wolves pursued getting more out of any trade involving Williams, but when the Mbah a Moute deal came about, with Williams' long-term value shrouded in uncertainty, it was time to pull the trigger.
"What you have to do is you to look at what is the value where you're at?" Saunders said. "What's the value going to be at in two months? What's the value going to be at the trade deadline? What's it going to be next year? I just didn't foresee Derrick being able to play much, and if a guy isn't playing, usually your value isn't going to go up."
With Williams granted a fresh start in Sacramento, the Wolves have moved on. Mbah a Moute enters the fold as the Wolves, caught in a daunting stretch in their schedule, are trying to regain momentum after falling back to the .500 mark (8-8) with a loss to the Pacers Tuesday.
It has not been announced if Mbah a Moute will play in the Wolves' Wednesday match-up against the Denver Nuggets. Saunders said there's "a chance," adding he he hopes Mbah a Moute can see at least a few minutes in his first night in Minnesota.