A common theme that has been hovering around many Pistons 101 articles in recent days is the thinking that the fastest way to improve this Pistons team is via trade. With December 15th marking the start-date for trades involving any players who signed new July contracts, the trade season is beginning to take shape. The first name with ties to the Pistons, according to ESPN.com, is Minnesota Timberwolves second-year, small/power forward, Derrick Williams.
For those who can't put the name to the face, let's brush up on our Derrick Williams history before jumping into ESPN.com's comments and whether or not the Pistons should explore this– if they already aren't. Williams played two years at the University of Arizona, a career that was highlighted by a stand-out NCAA Tournament performance in a 93-77 Sweet 16 trouncing of the Duke Blue Devils. After that season, Williams was taken with the no. 2 pick in the 2010 Draft by the Timberwolves. Now, in Williams' second season, he's on the trading block.
Williams came into the league with the same questions that surround almost every stand-out athlete forward. Does he play the three or the four? With Kevin Love owning the four in Minnesota, Williams was Love's back-up during the 2011-2012 season where he struggled as a rookie. This past offseason WIlliams trimmed down in an attempt to grab the small-forward spot. A position many feel Williams should be playing due to his preference for the three-ball, his ability to run the floor, and his lack of size at the four spot. But as ESPN.com pointed out, when the Timberwolves signed Andrei Kirilenko to play the small-forward, it became clear that Williams would not be in the TImberwolves plans for long.
Currently, Williams is averaging 8.8 rebounds, and 4.7 rebounds in a role coming off the bench that has him playing an average of 18 minutes per game. Shooting-wise, Williams has a 40.3 percent mark from the field with a 33.3 percent mark from beyond the arch. Neither mark shows the signs of the "can't miss" scorer Williams was expected to be, but there is reason to be optimistic as Williams' numbers are an improvement from his rookie season.
Williams is set to make around five million dollars this season, with $5.3 million due to him in the 2013-2014 season. With Minnesota's major demand in a possible trade for WIlliams being expiring contracts to clear up their off-season cap, ESPN.com pointed out that the team where Williams will likely be dealt is a non-contender that wants to buy low, in hopes of Williams re-energizing with a change of scenery. ESPN.com listed the Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans, and Detroit Pistons as the "more likely" teams to be involved. Here's what ESPN.com said about the Pistons: (ESPN Insider needed to view article)
The deal: Williams and Ridnour for Jason Maxiell and Austin DayeThis one might seem like a head-scratcher, but essentially the Wolves would be dealing from an area of abundance (point guard) to shore up their depth in the frontcourt for this season, primarily with Maxiell, and shed salary for next season. Williams and Ridnour are guaranteed more than $9.6 million between them next season, and Maxiell and Daye are set to come off the books. Detroit would take on more money, but in doing so, the Pistons would open the door for Andre Drummond to start by dealing Maxiell and would add much-needed experience at the point guard position and a possible long-term starting small forward in Williams.
In the opinion of Pistons 101, this is a move that could help the Pistons greatly. Maxiell will be a free agent in the offseason and likely wouldn't be asked back with the Pistons anyway. Losing Maxiell to open-up more playing time for Andre Drummond would most likely bring more cheers than the extra 2-3 wins that having Maxiell remain on the roster would. The same rationale applies to Austin Daye as he's nearly averaging a "DNP Coaches' Decision" every night, and has no hope of returning to the Pistons after this year. Losing either player wouldn't affect the Pistons long-term, rebuilding plans in any way. The question is whether or not the Pistons want to spend nearly $10 million on Williams and Ridnour, instead of allowing Maxiell and Daye to fall off the books for their own free-agent spending money.
Having free-agent spending ability is nice if your team is a desirable destination. If it's not, and the Detroit Pistons are not a desirable spot right now, you have to overpay for players that wouldn't command the kind of money you're giving them at nearly any other destination. (Just look back on the Pistons' Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon free agent signings) Typically, the most successful re-building projects have been spearheaded by smart draft decision and trades. Tayshaun Prince will not be the starting small-forward on this team when it finally arrives with Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond. The starting small-foward spot is going to become a need for the Pistons if the re-build is going to succeed. Bringing Williams into a situation where he'd have more of an opportunity to play could help the Pistons fill their need for an athletic forward to compliment the low-post-locked, Monroe and Drummond tandem.
With the worst case scenario being that you'd have to keep Williams through the 2013-2014 season if it doesn't work out, this move is something the Pistons should try to make happen.