Photo - Kevork Djansezian (Getty Images)
By: Joe Perovich, KFAN Intern
“No animals were harmed in the analysis’ of this trade…” If only that were true, but at least it’s animals that **cue Sauce** HAVE PASSED!
Dead horses everywhere have taken a beating. The opinion, “Sure, Derrick Williams hasn’t performed like a No. 2 pick, but the guy is 22, and maybe a change of scenery will do him good…” has been the initial summation of many. Before we move on our new commodity, lets look at that particular way of thinking.
Derrick Williams doesn’t have a post move. Enough with the double-pump fakes that haven’t worked since college.
Derrick Williams was a worse defensive player in his second season than he was in his first, according to on court/off court stats.
Derrick Williams worked all summer to become a wing, but is shooting 35% from the field and a gruesome 13% from 3.
Derrick Williams didn’t flourish with Rubio like you would envision someone with his skillset should.
And worst of all, Derrick Williams didn’t seem to care about any of this.
There’s a distinction between someone that turns in their ego at the door for the team’s sake, and a guy that is too content in his role. Williams was the No. 2 overall pick in 2011, but he accepted the role of a rotation guy too willingly, and that always put me off. There’s never been a talent issue. He calculated out as #1 on John Hollinger’s 2011 Pre-Draft Rater, ESPN’s David Thorpe said pre-draft that, “He impacts the game in every way, is a well-respected shooter, and has a great chance to be a better pro”, and many other nationally respected opinions shared a variety of this opinion.
I don’t blame David Kahn for this particular selection. Kahn, Minnesota’s GM from 2009-2013, didn’t have much of a choice outside of Williams.
Prior to the 2011 NBA Draft Lottery, many had Harrison Barnes slotted to Minnesota despite not knowing their actual pick yet. Wes Johnson’s rookie ineptitudes had many fans prepared to move on, but Barnes extinguished any chances of that materializing when he announced in early April that he was going to stay at Chapel Hill for his sophomore season. Despite the smoke and mirrors that had “Enes Kanter possibly going #1” leading up to draft day, the clear No. 1 and No. 2 selections were Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams, two spots the Timberwolves didn’t need to fill. The Cavaliers selected Duke’s point guard Kyrie Irving at No.1, and no less than five minutes later the best player available at the time, Derrick Williams, was putting on his Timberwolves draft cap.
The Timberwolves have moved on at the right time. He’s young, but so was Michael Beasley when Miami moved him to the Timberwolves in No. 2 (the Heat were only doing it to create cap, but it ended up being the correct move). 2009’s No. 2 pick Hasheem Thabeet has played on 4 teams in 5 years, and had “career” averages after his first two seasons of 2.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, and 0.8 BPG.
Williams has been better than that of course, but just because a guy was No. 2 doesn’t mean he gets years of exemption cards when there is a better player out there that can log minutes.
Enter Cameroon’s Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
You may remember him scoring the winning basket at the 0:54 mark in the 2006 Sweet 16 that induced Adam Morrison into tears. Luc Richard is Cameroonian, and is a prince in the village of Bia Messe. Due to his unique royalty and nationality, Luc grew a cult following among UCLA fans, getting the nickname “The Fresh Prince” as well as (along with fellow Cameroon teammate Alfred Aboya) inspiring a fan section at Pauley Pavilion to be called the “Cameroon Crazies”, intended as an ironic jab at the “Cameron Crazies” of Duke.
Mbah a Moute is very familiar with Minnesota’s Kevin Love. In college, Mbah a Moute’s junior season at UCLA coincided with Love’s freshman season. Together, they formed a bruising frontcourt that helped mightily towards the 2007-08 UCLA Bruins’ run to Final Four.
The NBA has been the setting for Mbah a Moute’s health contradicting his talent. He was a second-round selection by Milwaukee in the 2008 NBA Draft, but performed like a lottery pick no longer than four games into his rookie season. He was a bona fide playmaker for the Bucks, shoring up a number of their defensive concerns and exhibiting an affinity for sending shots in a direction the shooter hadn’t intended.
Unfortunately for Luc, knee injuries sent his career into a direction he hadn’t intended.
His best seasons were undeniably his first three; all seasons where he played in at least 89% of the Bucks’ games. Statistically, his defense was most impactful during his rookie year and it hasn’t been at that level since. A lot of this is due to multiple injuries and the lingering of those injuries. The 6’8” PF suffered a knee injury that cost him most of 2011-12 as well as the beginning of last year. On top of the knee injury and recovery last season, he also sustained an irritating toe injury that lingered much of the way. During Luc’s last two seasons in Milwaukee, he played in just 61% of the team’s games.
“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”, said Mark Twain.
Mbah a Moute cleared a physical for the Timberwolves today, and that’s a great sign.
His talent might be forever hampered by a compilation of injuries, but when’s he healthy enough to log minutes he can disrupt things on the defensive end, which is exactly what Minnesota needs. His defensive strengths will be a nice change of pace off the bench to Kevin Love’s offensive repertoire. This has the look of a smart “get out in front of it” move by Flip Saunders: receiving a good player back now for what could have been a much less talented player back if he waited any longer.
From a press release:
Wolves Acquire Luc Mbah a Moute from Sacramento
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Minneapolis/St. Paul – The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced the team has acquired forward Luc Mbah a Moute (BAH-ah MOO-tay) from the Sacramento Kings in exchange for forward Derrick Williams.
"We are excited to acquire a solid veteran player in Luc Mbah a Moute,” said Flip Saunders, Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations. “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.”
Mbah a Moute, a 6-8 forward, has averaged 6.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game over parts of six seasons with Milwaukee and most recently Sacramento. After the Bucks matched an offer sheet from the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 13, 2011, Mbah a Moute was traded by Milwaukee to the Kings on July 12, 2013 in exchange for two second-round picks. Today's trade reunites Mbah a Moute with Kevin Love, as the pair led UCLA to a Final Four run in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
Williams averaged 10.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game over 2+ seasons with the Wolves. The 6-8 forward is averaging 4.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in 14.7 minutes per game this season.
By: Joe Perovich, KFAN Intern
Whether it can be attributed to a string of less-than-desired rosters, untimely injuries, or merely an irrational allegiance to T-Mobile, the Minnesota Timberwolves (7-4, 2-3 away) will face the Washington Wizards (2-7, 1-2 home) at the Verizon Center, a road venue that in recent history has featured little to no success for Wednesday’s visiting team.
Minnesota has won just one of their previous nine trips to the arena nestled in the Nation’s Capital. Fortunately, a man that was instrumental in two of those wins for Washington is now on Minnesota’s side, doing his best to reverse the streak in the exact opposite direction.
Flip Saunders wasn’t hired as Minnesota’s President of Basketball Operations until May 3rd of this current year, but don’t fret T’Wolves fans, he was doing favors for the team long before he was even hired. In fact, a big reason Ricky Rubio puts on a jersey every night that has the team name “Wolves” emblazoned across it can be credited to Flip Saunders and his brass in Washington.
Flip was hired as the Wizards’ head coach on April 14th, 2009, and on June 24th, 2009 he and general manager Ernie Grunfeld sent a slew of contracts and the No. 5 overall pick (which wound up being then 18-year old Ricky Rubio) to the Timberwolves for SF Mike Miller, and eternal “tweener” Randy Foye, in an effort to patch up their past season’s vulnerability on the wing.
To Saunder’s credit, Randy Foye wasn’t awful, and his went down but his production remained consistent. Surprisingly, Mike Miller went on to post the second-best FG% of his career and the absolute best 3PT% of his career (that is, in years he played over 50 games). For some reason Foye, and more pointedly Miller, weren’t retained for the 2010-11 season, and the Timberwolves won the trade and finally reeled in their PG of the future after some elongated patience.
Fast-forward to today. Current, Timberwolves’ GM Flip Saunders will roll out a team with the ability to manufacture a scoring outburst from nearly any position at any given time.
With a roster more talented than any in the past five years, even if you combined a couple (it’s sort of ridiculous how ridiculous that isn’t), the Timberwolves will hope to erase any memory of past futilities and stamp out the Wizards early.
Simply put, the Timberwolves and the Wizards are trending two different ways at the moment.
For starters, Minnesota has Ricky Rubio, who averages the second most assists in the league and has a streak of 32 games with a steal. They added Kevin Martin in the off-season, and he has been exactly what the Timberwolves were on the market for. Martin has recorded at least 20 points in nine of the 10 games he has played in, and has been a brilliant complement to Rubio.
And finally, the Timberwolves have Kevin Love.
The season is young still, but Love’s accomplishments leading up to Wednesday night’s game are so lengthy that you would likely discover a new thing he is leading the league in with each and every look.
Just about everyone is aware that he is the third-leading scorer in the NBA (26.8 PPG, ahead of last year’s scoring champion and behind only two guys, a couple semi-recognizable NBA players, LeBron James and Kevin Durant), and several know he is the NBA’s current runner-up in rebounds at 13.6 RPG. How about this: Love leads the NBA in the advanced statistic ‘win shares’ (an estimate number of wins contributed to his team by a player) at 2.6, ahead of LeBron’s 2.1, and CP3 and Anthony Davis’ 2.0’s.
Prepare to fall over: Love is notoriously known for his shoddy defense, but at this current moment he is ranked 19th in the NBA in defensive rating (estimate number of points allowed per 100 possessions) and 7th in defensive win shares (an estimate number of wins contributed by a player due to his defense), ahead of players that are consistently labeled defensive-minded stalwarts like Chicago’s Joakim Noah, Golden State’s Andre Iguodala, and Houston’s Dwight Howard?
Kevin Love is excelling in every aspect of the game right now including the defensive end as conveyed by advanced stats. Conversely, the Wizards have been terrible defensively, routinely surrendering 105 points a game while letting opponents shoot almost 50% from the field on average.
It’s not any more magical on the other end of the court for Washington. The Wizards, during their current four-game losing streak, have shot just 41.2% as a team while barely mustering a 90-point showing in any of the four, averaging an uninspiring 93.8 during their losing swoon.
Washington has reason to not completely close the book on the season just yet. Bradley Beal, just 20-years old, has stepped and become the Wizards lone 20-point scorer. He doesn’t contribute much elsewhere, but he’s far surpassed what many thought he produce scoring-wise as a second-year player. Marcin Gortat, an underrated big man traded from the Suns to the Wizards before the season, has been another faint flicker of optimism for Washington through this first 1/8 of the NBA season.
Trevor Ariza and Otto Porter are not expected to play for the Wizards on Wednesday night, and Al Harrington is considered questionable. Ariza missing time could be the most valuable assist on Wednesday that doesn’t come from Rubio.
Embodying the phrase “diamond in the rough”, Ariza has been one of the single bright spots on the Wizards defense. If he misses, that opens up the floor even more for the Timberwolves on the offensive end.
This is a game that looks pretty lopsided in every aspect, and one that a team like the playoff-bound Timberwolves should win, and likely will win. When they do, Flip Saunders will extend his own streak: winning in games where the Timberwolves enter the Verizon Center as the visiting team.
Prediction: Timberwolves 119, Wizards 91.