When you think of threats on the Cleveland Cavaliers, Derrick Williams is not one of the first names to come to mind. You think of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love before Williams. Even their role players like J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver are generally more threatening than Williams.
For the Timberwolves, Williams will be one they have to watch. No, seriously.
After taking Williams second overall in 2011, he was shipped unceremoniously to Sacramento after just 155 games. Since then, Williams seems to dial up the intensity every time he faces the team that drafted him.
In nine games against the Wolves, Williams has scored the most points per game (12.8) and has his highest field goal percentage (54.8) against the Wolves than any other team. His career 117 offensive rating against the Wolves is second to his mark against Orlando. And hits his fourth-highest 3-point percentage against the Wolves. His 4.9 rebounds per game against the Wolves are his third-highest against an individual team
Williams has played his best against his former team despite never publicly stating any animosity towards the team that drafted him. It seems that Williams’ heightened performances are closer to friendly competition than vitriolic animosity.
Williams’ uptick in production against the Wolves isn’t much different than Andrew Wiggins’ against the team that drafted him. Much like Williams, Wiggins’ consistent strong play leads many to wonder why he can’t play at that level every night.
In the five games against his former team, Wiggins has lit up the Cavaliers’ defense. He has more points per game against them than any other team in his career. He also has posted his highest offensive rating, field goal percentage, and 3-point percentage against them. Get this: he takes 4.6 3’s per game against the Cavaliers and makes 52.2 percent of them.
With three all-star players around him, Williams will have an easier time putting up numbers. After just two games in a Cavaliers uniform, he’s averaging 21 minutes per game. Not only that, he’s been effective. Williams is making an absurd 83.3 percent of his shots and 50 percent of his 3-pointers. Based on what we’ve seen from his career, this isn’t sustainable but it’s a great start in his new town.
Conversely, Wiggins will have his work cut out for him.
Missing Zach LaVine only makes his life harder. Without the threat of LaVine, opposing defenses can key in more easily on him with one less floor spacer on the court. Being able to draw in the defense and kick the ball out will be crucial. At least Karl-Anthony Towns isn’t expected to go anywhere.
Since each respective player’s trade, everything has worked out for all sides. The Cavaliers got their title and Wiggins is a franchise cornerstone. While Williams has become a journeyman, he’s no longer toiling away on the Wolves bench and the Wolves themselves have improved their future.
With Kevin Love likely out on Tuesday, the attention will shift to Wiggins and Williams– two players who have consistently put up big numbers against their former teams. No one expects the Wolves to beat the Cavaliers but Wiggins’ play against them has been a recurring storyline for three years now. But Williams’ has similarly played his best games.
May the player with the best revenge game win.