MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Derrick Williams has been the subject of trade rumors practically since the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted him with the second overall pick in 2011.
After so many false starts, and unable to find playing time this season behind Kevin Love, Williams is finally on his way out.
The Wolves have agreed to trade him to Sacramento for Luc Mbah a Moute, two people with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday night.
The people requested anonymity because neither team has officially announced the deal, which will be finalized on Tuesday if Mbah a Moute passes a physical.
“If that goes through, we’ll miss Derrick. He’s a special talent,” Kevin Martin said after Monday’s 98-84 loss to Indiana, explaining he had not been told of the deal by any team officials.
“It may be a new opportunity for him. With Luc Mbah a Moute, we’ll open our arms with him and welcome him to our family. ”
Coach Rick Adelman said he also had no knowledge of the deal.
“You better call Sacramento because I have no idea,” Adelman said. “We’re talking about the game, I have no idea where that came from. I’m not dealing with any trade talk or anything else, you know, I have no idea. I haven’t talked to anybody.”
Williams came to the Wolves from Arizona as the highest draft choice in franchise history.
But he never was able to carve a niche in Adelman’s rotation and it became increasingly clear early this season that he had no role on the Timberwolves. Williams is averaging 4.9 points in less than 15 minutes per game this season.
Mbah a Moute is averaging 4.4 points and 3.0 rebounds in nine games for the Kings this season.
He will give the offensive-minded Timberwolves some much-needed defensive muscle off the bench, and give Adelman a veteran player the coach will use on a consistent basis.
It was an exit that most saw coming.
Adelman was frustrated with a perceived lack of intensity from Williams, while Williams was frustrated with sporadic playing time that never allowed him to get into the rhythm of the game.
Williams entered the league with high expectations, but Love’s emergence as the best power forward in the game limited the available playing time. He tried to drop weight and change his body to get more time at small forward, but that was a difficult transition from a defensive standpoint.
Through it all, Williams always seemed a more natural fit at big forward, and he filled in admirably at the position last season when Love went down with a hand injury.
Starting for Love down the stretch last season, Williams averaged 15.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and shot 34 percent from 3-point range over the final 33 games of the season and headed into the summer with some momentum.
New Wolves President Flip Saunders elected to exercise the $6.3 million option on Williams’ contract for 2014-15 despite Adelman’s reluctance to play him big minutes, seemingly offering a vote of confidence for the 22-year-old’s future in Minnesota.
But with Love back healthy and playing at a high level early this season, the playing time has been hard to come by for Williams. With a starting five clearly established, Adelman has preferred to use Robbie Hummel at small forward and Dante Cunningham at power forward with the second unit.
Williams missed one game with back spasms and did not play in three others while Adelman elected to go with other players.
In Sacramento, Williams comes to a young team that still appears to be a year away from challenging for a playoff spot in the powerful Western Conference.
That should mean he will come to a coaching staff that can afford to be a little more patient with him and give him more playing time to learn and grow.
Mbah a Moute is a defensive specialist that will help the Timberwolves, who are trying to end a nine-year playoff drought this season, beef up their ability to defend the pick and roll, which has been a problem for them this season.
“He’s just a veteran player and a pretty good defender,” Martin said. “You never really know how somebody fits into a team until they get there.”
Adelman has endorsed the move to those in the organization, looking forward to adding the 27-year-old Mbah a Moute to toughen his team up while they wait for Ronny Turiaf to return from a fractured elbow.
The extra body will do the weary Wolves some good. The Wolves’ starters have collectively played more minutes than any other starting five in the league this season, and there was concern that they would wear down as the season went on.
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