Chip Scoggins: Too soon to unload Derrick Williams; just wrong to pursue Pau Gasol

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 30, 2012 - 9:32 AM

The Wolves are rushing to improve, but dumping youth for an overpaid veteran could be costly in the long term .

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The Lakers' Pau Gasol, left, is a perennial All-Star who is tight with Ricky Rubio, but he also is owed $38 million and would possibly displace Nikola Pekovic, right.

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Derrick Williams tweeted that he felt like a "caged lion" as a rookie. Now he probably feels like a minnow.

Apparently, he's become trade bait.

The Timberwolves reportedly attempted to move Williams, the No. 2 overall pick last season. If so, that shows a remarkable lack of patience, even in our 140-character society. Williams -- heck, any player, for that matter -- deserves more time to develop and realize his true potential.

Williams turned 21 last month and has played one lockout-shortened NBA season with a minimal training camp. They can't possibly know what he'll look like as a finished product.

Besides, what's the rush? Do the Wolves actually believe they're that close to contending for something?

The Wolves are determined to reshape their roster this summer after showing renewed signs of life as an organization last season before Ricky Rubio's knee injury. Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph and Martell Webster likely are on the way out. Wes Johnson should be, too, although good luck finding a taker on him.

Those personnel moves make sense. Trading Williams after one season makes sense only in a narrow view that seems to be dictating this offseason makeover. The reasons cited for dangling Williams in trade talks project an urgency that anticipates a deep playoff run in the next few seasons.

Rick Adelman is 66 and wants one more bite at the playoff apple before retirement. Wolves President David Kahn needs to win for the sake of self-preservation. And Glen Taylor is hoping to sell the team in the next few years. Those factors run counter to the notion of building long-term around a nucleus of young, talented players.

The Wolves are motivated to be a winner, to experience the playoffs again, to be relevant for more than a few months. That's encouraging. But unloading Williams in exchange for a veteran doesn't guarantee a quicker or smoother path in that pursuit. It also would eliminate any potential payoff if Williams develops into a superstar.

The Associated Press reported that the Wolves tried to orchestrate a draft-night trade involving Williams that ultimately would bring them Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol. Thankfully, that didn't materialize.

The Wolves apparently covet Gasol because he would fit nicely in Adelman's offense, is close friends with Rubio and is a skilled big man. But he also turns 32 next week, has lots of miles on his tires and is owed $38 million on his contract. Plus, what would his arrival mean for center Nikola Pekovic, who was one of the most improved players in the league last season?

No thanks, and certainly not at the expense of losing Williams.

The Wolves unquestionably need to upgrade their personnel, but they don't have much bargaining power. Rubio and Kevin Love are untouchable, according to Kahn. That leaves ... who? Williams is the only other player on the roster with any substantive trade value.

But any deal should knock their socks off, and Gasol does not fit that criteria. The Wolves desperately need an elite, athletic shooting guard who can create his own shot. Same thing at small forward.

The hope is that Williams can shed some weight this summer, improve his outside shooting and play primarily at small forward next season. He's more comfortable at power forward, but that is Love's position, so minutes are scarce.

It's unclear if Williams can refine his game and body enough to play small forward long-term, but he at least deserves an opportunity. Give him time, see what happens. There's not a shot clock on his development.

Williams endured his share of struggles as a rookie. He averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 21.5 minutes per game. He looked lost at times and expressed frustration with his role in February. But he also displayed enough flashes of his talent and power that it's worth showing some patience to see how he develops in his second season and beyond.

Kahn described this as a "very important summer for [Williams] to demonstrate if he's serious about his craft, his occupation, that he's serious about taking care of himself. This is the offseason. I'm eager to see the results of this summer."

Same here. Let's just hope he's still wearing a Wolves uniform.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

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