Replacing Kevin Love, Part II: Derrick Williams vs Michael Beasley

Derrick Williams

Yesterday we asked who should replace Kevin Love in the starting lineup during Love’s suspension. Your response: Derrick Williams. And it wasn’t even close.

Williams and Michael Beasley are the most likely candidates to replace Love. Love’s suspension is an interesting if brief experiment to see what they might look like if Love weren’t locking down the four. Both have tantalizing talent, but neither has realized his full potential. Some have claimed that Love’s incumbency as the Wolves PF has hindered the development and performance of both Beasley and Williams by limiting their playing time and forcing them to play out of position.

It’s an intriguing experiment regardless of who gets the bulk of Love’s minutes. Before it begins, I wanted to take a close look at Williams and Beasley’s numbers this season to see if they suggest any interesting hypotheses.

The stats reveal some interesting trends.

Michael Beasley

Beasley (23.3/10.4) is scoring and rebounding at a higher rate than Williams (19.6/10.2), though Williams hits the offensive boards harder (3.4 vs. 2.1), which is not insignificant given the void that in this area created by Love’s absence. Beasley is turning the ball over (3.7 vs. 2.7) and fouling (4.1 vs. 3.1) at a much higher rate than Williams while blocking fewer shots (0.7 vs. 0.5) and getting fewer steals (1.2 vs. 0.9) than D-Will.

Williams has also shot more efficiently than Beasley, with a higher TS% (50% vs 47.8%), though Beas has shot the 3 much better (37.5% vs. 25%). As has been especially apparent over the past few weeks, Williams (62%) is less apt to settle for jumpers than Beasley (73%), who’s drawn much criticism for not getting more looks in the paint, where he has a nice touch (63.3% on inside shots, which is comparable to Williams’ 67%) but is more likely than Williams to get stuffed (23% vs. 10%).

Getting to the line is another important consideration in trying to replace Love’s production, and Williams has done it more efficiently than Beasley (6.6 vs. 5.4), though both have been getting to the line at a higher rate than the average NBA forward this season.

Overall, Williams has a WP48 of 0.089, while Beasley’s WP48 is -0.009, so there’s that to chew on too.

Finally, it’s important to remember that while Williams has not been overly impressive this year, Beasley has played about as bad as is imaginable, and in a small sample due to injury. Only looking at the numbers suggests Williams would probably do a bit more to replace Love’s production than Beasley, though neither would likely come close given Love’s almost historically impressive NUMB#RS this year. Operating from the (plausible) assumptions that Beasley has been UNSUSTAINABLY bad so far and is likely to regress to the mean, he might deliver more than Williams, whose learning curve, as evidenced by his nightly deer-in-headlights moments, is higher despite Beasley’s propensity to take questionable shots.

Caveats aside, I’d personally prefer to see Adelman throw the rook into the action so we could see what he’d do with the extra rope.

What’s your take?

UPDATE (3:05 PM EST): More from Zgoda on likely lineup adjustments for tonight’s game against Sacramento.

UPDATE (1:40 PM EST): @JerryZgoda reports that Williams wore the white starter’s jersey during today’s shootaround.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Replacing Kevin Love, Part II: Derrick Williams vs Michael Beasley

  1. Andy G

    Re: tonight’s game, does Wes and his 36.8 percent shooting have to play 34 minutes again (recall how he played a lot to defend Salmons last time Kings were in town) or can Martell Webster take his place?

  2. Eric in Madison

    Beasley is more or less the same guy he’s always been; his numbers look worse largely because of what is probably unsustainably poor 2 point shooting. “The same guy he’s always been” is not exactly a great thing, but I don’t think his current shooting percentages are particularly relevant going forward.

    I guess I’d be inclined to throw Williams out there just because, but Andy makes the correct point that if you limit (or eliminate) Johnson’s minutes, you have the opportunity to play all 3 of Williams, Beasley and Webster with Love being on the shelf.

    • Andy G

      I’m interested to see how the next month or so goes between Wes and Webster. It would be understandable if Webster’s minutes were limited due to the back surgery but as more time passes, if Wes continues to play high minutes (over the second point guards, Webster, and Beasley) it’ll really make me wonder what’s going on. Either Adelman thinks he can teach Wes how to play NBA offense (seems unlikely to me), he thinks Wes makes a defensive impact that the others do not, or it’s something more front-office related, like trying to preserve or build up his potential trade value. Hard to say. I don’t enjoy watching Wes hesitate to shoot open three’s to dribble in for a turnover. I know that.

      • Eric in Madison

        You don’t enjoy Wes Johnson’s signature move? What kind of Wolves fan are you?

        • Do we know why Anthony Tolliver decided to appropriate Wes Johnson’s signature move when he was having success at stretching defenses earlier in the season via catch and shoots? Seems like the kind of guy who should know better.

    • @Eric in Madison: I’m not sure that what Beasley has always been is what he’ll always be. He’s one of those rare 4th-year players who still have a lot of *attainable* upside if a few things go right. Usually you know what you have after two years, but big, immature forwards who play a year of college ball or less, it seems like the right situation is everything. Zach Randolph and Jermaine O’Neal are the hand-picked examples I’m thinking of. Would Z-Bo have made if he hadn’t ended up in Memphis? Would O’Neal if he hadn’t landed in Indiana? Obviously these are exceptions–there are tons of guys who just never fulfill their potential–but Beasley is similar in the high talent/low immaturity areas and, like Randolph and O’Neal, he’s never really been in a comfortable, nurturing situation. Miami was a playoff team in his rookie year and tanking like crazy in his second year. Last year he looked great at times, struggled with injuries at others, played out of position for an awful coach, and still managed to average 20ppg. He’s clearly struggled this year, even before the injury, and it isn’t clear why. So as much as I want to see Williams get the reps while Love’s out, a part of me wants to see what Beasley could do with those reps at the four. It sounds like that’s not going to happen and it’s understandable why not–all I’m arguing is that there’s a plausible (if somewhat improbable) case to be made that Beasley’s still a better prospect than Williams who, like Williams, has remained an enigma playing behind Love.

      • Eric in Madison

        Well, it’s certainly possible that Williams will never be as good as Beasley. That doesn’t make either of them a star. At some point, the excuses have to stop. This is Beasley’s 4th year. Not very many players have a perfect situation; good ones manage to be good despite the hurdles. I’m not sold that there is a ton of upside left for Beasley. I could be wrong, but he really hasn’t gotten better at all throughout his career.

        As for Z-Bo, he was a better per minute player in his second year than Beasley has ever been, and JO came into the league so freaking young. Even so, in his first year of significant playing time (his age 22 season) he was better than Beasley. Even the year before in limited time he was arguably better.

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