INDIANAPOLIS – Former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams spent his final game in a Timberwolves uniform the same way he did three other game nights this season: He sat near the bench’s end in his warm-ups and watched all evening, this time during a 98-84 loss at Indiana.
The Wolves sent Williams to Sacramento for defensive specialist Luc Mbah a Moute, league sources said. The deal was finalized Tuesday morning.
Williams, 22, spent the entire game on the Wolves bench, chatting with teammate Ronny Turiaf for much of it even after news reports of the agreed-upon deal zoomed all around the world via social media.
When finalized, the trade will send away a player whose future in Minnesota was murky almost from the moment he was drafted out of Arizona in 2011, after Cleveland took Duke’s Kyrie Irving No. 1 overall.
(Click here for audio of the proper pronounciation of "Mbah a Moute.")
A Pacers fan wearing the jersey of Paul George — a blossoming superstar Indiana drafted 10th overall in 2010, six spots after the Wolves selected Wes Johnson — seated directly behind Williams heckled him during the third quarter, laughing and offering “congrats” that he was headed to Sacramento.
Williams didn’t react one bit and after the game made a hasty exit from locker room at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, saying, “I’m not talking tonight.”
Wolves star Kevin Love seemed startled when asked after about the deal. So did other teammates. Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin said they were unaware. Martin called it “the first official trade of the Timberwolves’ season.”
“We make a trade?” Love said, his eyes widening before he asked about the specifics.
Love played with Mbah a Moute, a second-round pick by the Bucks in 2008, during his one collegiate season at UCLA.
“He will defend,” Love said about the 6-7 forward. Mbah a Moute, 27, can defend the other team's best wing player but has little or no offensive game.
Williams is the highest draft pick in Wolves history, one slot higher than USC’s O.J. Mayo in 2008 and two slots higher than Syracuse’s Johnson in 2010.
They traded Mayo on draft night in a deal that brought Love’s draft rights from Memphis and traded Johnson away last year, agreeing to send their protected 2014 first-round pick to Phoenix as well so that they could sign Andrei Kirilenko.
Williams declared himself an NBA small forward during pre-draft workouts, but some scouts worried he was either a tweener — a player by virtue of his size, skill and style of game somewhere between a power forward and small forward — or the same position as Love, a “stretch” power forward so called because of an ability to stretch defenses with his outside shooting.
The Wolves tried to trade Williams leading up to that draft and on draft night, looking to deal a player who duplicated what they already possessed for other assets. But they never reached an agreement, and Williams’ name had been mentioned frequently in trade rumors through two management regimes that included David Kahn, who drafted Williams, and Flip Saunders, who replaced Kahn in May.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman said after Monday’s game that he didn’t know about any trade.
“You better call Sacramento, so I have no idea,” he said. “I’m going to talk about the game. I don’t know where that came from. I’m not dealing with any trade talk or anything else.”
In October, the Wolves picked up Williams’ $6.7 million option for the 2014-15 season rather than let him become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He makes $5.3 million this season. Mbah a Moute is owed about $9 million for the rest of this season and next.
The Kings acquired Mbah a Moute last summer from Milwaukee for two second-round draft picks in a deal that enabled the Bucks to bring guard Luke Ridnour back to Milwaukee from the Wolves. Mbah a Moute experienced problems with his knees while with the Bucks, but was physically approved for July’s trade.
He averaged 4.4 points and three rebounds and nearly 22 minutes a game while playing nine of Sacramento’s 12 games.
“We’ll welcome him to the family,” Martin said. “He’s a veteran player, a pretty good defender. You never know how somebody fits into the team until he gets here.”