The Wolves possessed a wonderful opportunity to prove themselves on the road last night against one of the best teams in the NBA — the Indiana Pacers. Ultimately, they failed the test and were defeated 98-84, mostly in part to the fact that the Georges were better than the Kevins. But the game ended up being overshadowed by the first trade of the NBA season.
After an afternoon of wild trade speculation, started by our very own Dan Barreiro, the Wolves agreed to trade their highest draft pick in team history — Derrick Williams — to the Sacramento Kings. In return, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute heads to Minnesota to help a thin bench unit that has relied almost exclusively on three players thus far — J.J. Barea, Dante Cunningham and Robbie Hummel. The deal was officially completed today after physicals were conducted and the Wolves were satisfied enough with the condition of Mbah a Moute’s knee (he missed most of the pre-season with right knee tendinitis).
It’s easy to spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could have or would have happened. But in the end, what’s the point? The best medicine is always moving on, and that’s my recommendation in the case of Derrick Williams. Let’s not over-analyze his career in Minnesota. It’s pretty simple actually — going to a team with an all-star power forward was never a good situation to begin with; it was destined to fail from the start. So don’t be mad at Williams for not producing in his turbulent role. Instead, wish him a bright future and move on, because in reality it became a no-brainer to trade him.
If you find yourself scratching your head, asking why we dealt the former No. 2 overall pick for a guy with four names, none of which you have ever heard of, then perhaps you haven’t been paying close enough attention. Or perhaps you haven’t paid any attention whatsoever and simply cannot let go of the fact that he was the highest pick in franchise history. But, a trade was inevitable.
Rick Adelman reached a point where he was basically refusing to give Williams minutes unless the game had already been decided after three-quarters, and without any consistent minutes (Williams averaged 5.3 minutes per game over the last seven games) or a displayed confidence from your Hall of Fame coach, it became clear that his time in Minnesota was coming to a close. So our front office was essentially forced to trade him for a player that Adelman would actually play — insert Mbah a Moute.
By now it’s no secret that the Wolves needed bench depth to help a starting unit that has played more minutes than any other starting five in the NBA this season. And Mbah a Moute will certainly help ease the burden on the starters. He won’t be relied upon to score, but he gives the offensive-minded Wolves a versatile defender that can play either forward position and — most importantly — he can guard the opposing team’s star player if asked to. Williams wasn’t providing anything off the bench for the Wolves and we were able to swap him for a player that should play a significant role off the bench moving forward. We also got a guy that knows exactly what he does well on the court, whereas Williams often looked lost and perplexed; unsure of his next move.
If Williams flourishes in Sacramento, then I’ll be genuinely happy for him, because it wasn’t going to happen in Minnesota and I want to see him succeed. Mbah a Moute, on the other hand, is a veteran player that will be able to help us win games this year and the same cannot be said for Williams, who was rotting away on the bench. Down the road critics may look back at this deal and say the Wolves sold low on a young player that they invested an A+ asset in, but I’m pretty excited about adding a veteran presence that can create havoc on the defensive end and be a leader in the locker room. The acquisition of Mbah a Moute will also provide an immediate return on investment and I believe Adelman will put him in a position to maximize his skills, just like he’s done with Corey Brewer and Dante Cunningham.
So, to sum it up, I’m a fan of this deal — Williams gets a fresh start in a new environment, with new expectations, and the Wolves get a player that can help them achieve their playoff aspirations this season, which ultimately should help the organization keep their franchise player, and former UCLA teammate of Mbah a Moute, Kevin Love. The trade also saves the Wolves about $2.3 million over the next 2 years, which isn’t a ton of money, but it’s enough to make a difference next offseason if we want to go out and sign a veteran role player to fill a specific need, like this past summer’s signing of Ronny Turiaf.
Here’s what Flip Saunders had to say about his first mid-season trade as the Wolves President of Basketball Operations:
“We are excited to acquire a solid veteran player in Luc Mbah a Moute. Luc is known as one of the premier defensive players in the league with an ability to guard multiple positions. He adds a lot of energy, grit and a high basketball IQ to our team. We thank Derrick for his contributions to our organization and wish him well in Sacramento.” (via Timberwolves.com)
I found this piece by Mbah a Moute on ESPN’s TrueHoop Network, yes he wrote it himself, to be a fine example of the player the Wolves are getting in return. If you don’t get anything from this article, please make sure to read this because it’s a testament to the player Mbah a Moute is. The Wolves needed to add another defensive presence to their team, what they got in return is player that has individualized defensive strategies to stop the games brightest stars, which is pretty cool if you ask me.
And to cap off this post, here are two videos to give you a better idea of what the newest member of the Wolves brings to the table: