There was a time not long ago when Derrick Williams was widely seen by NBA executives as a promising young talent. But after the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted the University of Arizona forward second overall in 2011, he has fallen well short of those early expectations.
The Sacramento Kings are hoping he can still fulfill all that early promise, as they finalized a trade for him Tuesday in which they sent veteran forward Luc Mbah a Moute to the Timberwolves. The cost was relatively cheap, as first-year general manager Pete D'Alessandro had landed Mbah a Moute from the Milwaukee Bucks in July in exchange for two future second-round picks. The high-scoring Timberwolves were on the lookout for defensive help, which made Mbah a Moute attractive and paved the way for the deal.
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D'Alessandro spoke with USA TODAY Sports about the trade and the discussed the idea that Williams' best basketball in the NBA may still be ahead of him. And with the trade deadline still months away (Feb. 20) and the Kings (4-9) widely known to be among the most active teams in terms of making trade calls, D'Alessandro talked about the possibilities on that front as well.
Q: So how long have you been intrigued by Derrick?
A: "He has always intrigued me from the time of his draft year. I think he intrigued most of the league. There's a reason he went as high as he did. So as it became apparent that we, as the Sacramento Kings, may be able to acquire a young player with, we think, some potential that has not been tapped yet, that was exciting to us.
"I think with a lot of players it's difficult. You get drafted, and there are expectations that come along with that. And it's a hard thing to handle when you're 20 years old land you're drafted into the NBA, to the elite of the elite. I really do believe that.
"I've said this before, (new Kings owner) Vivek Ranadive is a person who is about opportunity, right? He gave a first-time coach in Michael Malone an opportunity, and a first-time GM an opportunity. We're an opportunity organization, and we see this as an opportunity for him to have a fresh start as well. And I feel like it's such a positive organization as a result of ownership and where it comes from. It's such a positive-minded place that if there's a place for people to achieve, I think this is fertile ground for that.
Q: He's one of those hybrid guys and opinions differ about whether he's a three (small forward) or a four (power forward). How do you guys see it?
A: "I'll have to talk to coach about that a little more, because obviously you let your coaches do their thing. I think he certainly has the skill to be a three. He has played a lot of three already. He has also played a lot of four. He has mixed it up. What I really see him as is an athlete, a guy who can run the floor with our guys, a guy who has a unique skill-set in terms of – he's just so strong, and if a four is guarding him he can really step out. Used in a certain way, I think there's an advantage in that as well."
Q: It's not a secret that you've been very active looking for deals. So should your fans expect this roster to look a whole lot different a few months from now?
"I would say this: I think we owe it to the fans of Sacramento to be aggressive in everything we do, and we've said that from the beginning. But talk is cheap, and we don't plan on just being talkers. If a deal makes sense to us, and we feel that there's an opportunity for something good to come from it, we're going to do it. We have to do it. There hasn't been that kind of energy here as a result of the recent past, and that's the energy that we bring and are going to bring."