Analyzing The Anomalous: Derrick Williams vs. Los Angeles Clippers
When people look back at Derrick Williams’ career, this is the game they’ll say started it all. It was, in a nutshell, the definition of a breakout performance. With Minnesota’s two best players—one of them serving as his generation’s model of consistency–experiencing a rare night off, Williams stepped up in a monstrous way, helping his team defeat a division leading championship contender on the road. Williams’ night wasn’t just impressive by a rookie’s standards. It was the most efficient game a player’s had all season. The fact that it happened to be produced by a rookie just opens everyone’s eyeballs a little wider.
Despite putting up disappointing per game averages of 7.3 points and 4.2 rebounds, relegating this game as an aberration would be short sighted. While he may never see a similarly flawless night for the rest of his career, this should be more representative of what he’s capable of doing on a regular basis than the single digit scoring clunkers we witnessed throughout the season’s first half.
Derrick Williams vs. Los Angeles Clippers. Minnesota wins 109-97. Williams’ statistics: 28 minutes, 27 points (on 9-10 shooting), 5 rebounds, 0 assists, and 1 block.
- Did we ever think in his rookie year that Derrick Williams’ point total in a single game would equal Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, JJ Barea, and Darko Milicic’s? And if it did, that the Timberwolves would win?! Two nights ago he tallied 27 points. Love had 10, Rubio had 2, Ridnour had 8, Barea had 6, and Milicic had 1, equaling, you guessed it, 27. That’s mind boggling.
- 27 points aren’t anything to write home about, but when they come by way of a 110.7 TS% and 2.08 PPP, it becomes a major subject of conversation.
- Coming into the league, many people compared Williams with Blake Griffin. Both are incredibly gifted athletes who should spend the next 10 years of their career living above the rim. On his first basket of the game, Williams (a “combo” forward) had Griffin guarding him on the perimeter. The rookie attacked without hesitation, crossing over left to right between the legs and into the lane with relative ease before lofting a floater over Kenyon Martin’s rising fingertips. People have yet to designate a set position for the 6’8″ Williams. One of the Minnesota broadcasters is convinced he’s a power forward, but with three-point range and quickness off the dribble (not to mention Kevin Love posted up as his teammate), having him defend small forwards may be the best fit. Stepping back for a moment, the whole argument of which position best suits a player is a little silly. As long as he’s put in a position to succeed and be productive, what his designated title is shouldn’t matter.
- Williams made his name with high flying artistry, but in reality he’s an extremely physical player who has the ability to average 8-10 rebounds a game if he wanted to someday. Against the Clippers he ended with five. Two of them came after L.A. had already grabbed an offensive rebound because Williams was out of position, and one was on a missed Blake Griffin free-throw.
- Three of his three-pointers came with Williams catching the ball and without thinking immediately launching it towards the basket. The fourth three was probably the most spectacular. With his team down three early in the fourth quarter, Williams initiated a pick and roll with Darko to try and get himself either a clean drive to the basket or an open jump shot. After reading the defense and accepting that nothing was available, he swung the ball to Barea, who threw it right back to Williams once Los Angeles’ defense had shifted. With due diligence Milicic came up to set another screen on Griffin, and Williams responded with one dribble to the left and a beautiful dagger. At the time Williams was clearly feeling it, but he didn’t force anything. When rookies show patience like this, and let shot opportunities come to them within the natural flow of their team’s offense it’s a wonderful sign. If I didn’t already mention this, he finished the night perfect from beyond the arc.
- With eight minutes left in the game, the shot clock winding down, and Minnesota holding a two point lead, Williams made a move so good it should be deemed illegal. Running another pick and roll with Darko, Williams gets a screen and takes his man, Kenyon Martin, into it. Instead of continuing towards the basket, he goes back between his legs—freezing Martin in the moment—leans back towards the opposite direction, and pulls up for a 20 foot jumper. In an attempt to save face, Martin lunges to block the shot, but ends up knocking Williams over instead. The ball goes through the hoop and the subsequent free-throw is made, completing the three-point play. If he’s going to have handle like this, in a true brute of a body, rules should have to change. Like I said, it simply isn’t fair, and almost every team in the league won’t have an answer for him.