SACRAMENTO, Calif. – If the suitcases didn’t tip you off, Derrick Williams came to Sacramento with a lot of baggage.
The second overall pick in 2011 flew in Tuesday night and participated in Wednesday’s Sacramento Kings practice. Following his trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves for Luc Mbah a Moute, Williams showed pep in his step while acclimating to new teammates.
Head coach Michael Malone was impressed by Williams’ skills on Wednesday and would like to feed him regular minutes immediately. Malone plans to give him extensive run at small forward and power forward where roles on the Kings remain unresolved.
Of course, Malone is aware that Williams a far from a complete product. The Arizona star struggled to make an impact in Minnesota in part to streaky shooting and porous defense. Malone emphasized on Wednesday he wants to take the pressure and expectations off Williams, particularly on defense.
“If the effort’s there and he’s buying in and he’s giving the effort that we ask for every night, we’ll continue to work with him and teach him to be better on that end of the floor so he can get caught up to his teammates,” Malone told Sports Out West. “He’s way behind everybody else, but the only way to get him caught up is by putting him out there and giving him an opportunity to play.”
Williams has big shoes to fill on the defensive end, because Mbah a Moute was the Kings’ best stopper at multiple positions. In the 2011-12 season, the forward surrendered an effective field goal percentage of 51.2-percent and 53.3-percent to threes and fours respectively (per 82games.com). In 2012-13, Williams recorded a worse defensive rating (105) than David Lee (104). While he has the physical tools to become a respected defender, the 22-year-old acknowledges a steep NBA learning curve.
“One-on-one defense is a challenge for me. I’m ready to accept that,” Williams noted on Wednesday. “We have a lot of good players coming in…(Jared) Dudley, Harrison Barnes, KD coming to town, and I think this is a good challenge for me in the next few games.”
Covering small forwards will be a test, because Williams hasn’t regularly played the three since his rookie year. The Timberwolves and Rick Adelman essentially gave up on the former lottery pick as a wing, but Malone will try encouragement.
Williams isn’t a lost cause. The 6-foot-8, 240-pounder is an explosive driver with touch at an age when many players enter the NBA as rookies. Apart from scoring, Williams does contribute in other areas.
“I wouldn’t say I’m the best shot-blocker, but for my size I can definitely block shots…I’m pretty lanky myself, so I can use that to my advantage.”
“I think I’m a really good rebounder, especially defensive rebounder. I know I can work on my offensive rebounding.”
The Kings suggested by trading Mbah a Moute for a project that playoff contention is years away. But that doesn’t mean Williams lacks urgency to shine his game.
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