Wolves grab Williams with 1st selection
By Jon Krawczynski, AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Derrick Williams is on his way to Minnesota and Timberwolves President David Kahn emphatically told fans that he is coming here to stay.
The Wolves drafted the Arizona forward with the No. 2 pick Thursday night, leading to speculation that he could be traded because his skills so closely resemble those of current Timberwolves Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph.
"We're not trading Derrick Williams," Kahn told the team's draft party in an interview from the team's war room. "He will be in a Timberwolves uniform next year."
Williams averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Wildcats last season and was widely considered the second-best player in the draft behind Duke point guard Kyrie Irving. The Cavs took Irving with the first pick.
The Timberwolves tried all week to trade the second pick in hopes of landing a veteran center or shooting guard to help the youngest team in the league. In the end, they couldn't find an offer they liked enough to pass up on the explosive, 6-foot-8 forward.
After taking Williams, the Timberwolves sent point guard Jonny Flynn and the 20th pick -- Lithuanian forward Donatas Motiejunas -- to Houston for the 23rd and 38th picks, center Brad Miller and a lottery protected future first-round pick.
A person with knowledge of the deal confirmed the trade to The Associated Press, requesting anonymity because the trade was not yet approved by the league.
The deal ends a difficult two years in Minnesota for Flynn, who struggled to get acclimated in Kurt Rambis' complex offense and missed the first half of last season with a hip injury.
Kahn made all the decisions without Rambis in the room. The coach was watching the draft from Los Angeles, still not told if he will return for a third season after going 32-132 in his first two years. Yahoo! Sports reported on Wednesday night that Kahn has already decided to fire Rambis, but the Timberwolves have not commented publicly on the situation.
The Timberwolves finished an NBA-worst 17-65 last season, but their long history of bad lottery luck struck again when Cleveland leapfrogged them for the top pick. The Cavs took Irving as expected, leaving the Wolves with a dilemma.
They could take Williams, who seems to be redundant with Beasley, Randolph and Wes Johnson -- three tall, very athletic players who can play multiple positions.
Or they could take Turkish center Enes Kanter, who at 6-foot-11 is as an enormous presence in the post and would help balance their roster. But Kanter sat out all of last season after being ruled ineligible at Kentucky, and so there is plenty of mystery surrounding his game.
Ultimately they decided to take Williams, declining to trade the highest pick in franchise history.
There is some debate as to where Williams will play in the NBA. He played mostly power forward at Arizona, but league observers wonder if he's big enough to defend the power forwards he'll face on a nightly basis in the NBA.
When he worked out for the Timberwolves last week, Williams insisted that he is a small forward in the NBA. He shot almost 57 percent from 3-point range for Arizona last year and has displayed the quickness and ball-handling ability to play the position, on offense at least. The questions would be on defense.
Williams has worked out with Beasley and Johnson in Los Angeles this summer, and said last week that he would welcome the idea of starting his pro career in Minnesota. He didn't see the redundant skill sets as an issue.
"I think actually it'd be hard to guard if you had three small forwards on the court at one time," Williams said. "Wes can stretch out the defense. Beasley can stretch out the defense and so can I. Me or Beasley can play the four spot. Either way it's going to be a mismatch if we're both on the court at the same time."
Johnson said he thinks they'll figure out a way for everyone to coexist.
"His basketball I.Q. is high so I think him coming in, any type of position, I think he'll be fine," Johnson said.
A person with knowledge of the Timberwolves' plans said the team has no plans to trade Beasley, either.
After coming to Minnesota from Miami last summer, Beasley averaged 19.2 points and kept his nose clean off the court as well. But a series of ankle injuries in the second half of the season derailed his fast start, and there are still questions about whether they can rely on the 22-year-old to mature into the kind of professional, focused leader the team needs.
Maybe having another lottery pick to compete with for minutes will be just the motivation Beasley needs.