[Last night's game is the rare Wolves tilt that shows up in my League Pass Broadband archives. I wanted to look back at Derrick Williams' three turnovers, because I remember each one was of the head-scratching and maddening variety, and they represent recurring issues with the inconsistent young forward. Below are my notes on how he screwed up 3 times in last night's 1st Half, causing his minutes to be limited to just 29 on a night that every other viable option was out with an injury or illness.]
Derrick’s first turnover came with 1:23 to go in the 1st Quarter. He stood on the opposite baseline when J.J. Barea drove down the right side of the lane. Williams pointed in the air to Barea, calling for an alley oop pass. When Barea could only deliver a *normal* pass, it went off Williams’ hands, fumbled and eventually kicked out of bounds.
His second turnover came early in the 2nd Quarter. Williams set a high ball screen for Ricky Rubio, who dribbled off of it from left to right, eventually turning toward the rim after drawing both defenders of the ball screen. Ricky now had a 5 on 4 with Williams slowly rolling closer to the hoop. Williams received the “pocket pass” off the bounce about 3 feet inside the free throw line, in the middle of the lane. He was now one on one with Greg Smith, who was helping over, just outside the restricted area, under the hoop. A reasonable option here would be to shoot the 12 footer. Zero percent chance of a turnover, and high likelihood of either a made basket or a “Kobe Assist,” where the scrambled defense allows somebody else (Lou Amundson, in this case) to tip in the soft rebound.
Instead, Williams decides to attack to hoop. If you can call it that. He takes one hard dribble, mostly forward to approach Smith but slightly to the right, leading with his left shoulder. He then spins back around his right shoulder and pump fakes. Smith doesn’t bite and Williams is now in his patented, full crouch mode. He’s stuck. Smith easily swatted the shot attempt, but not before Williams moved his pivot foot for a pathetic-looking travel.
The last Williams turnover came right before halftime. The Wolves came out of a timeout with a set play with 5.6 seconds left in the half, but only 1.1 seconds on the shot clock. They called a play for a quick hitter, immediate shot to beat the shot clock. Williams was set at the top of the key, where Luke Ridnour ran up to set a back screen. The Rockets switched, but Harden (the block defender, here) still let Williams slip behind him and catch the pass on the opposite block. When Williams caught the ball, he had Harden on his left (back) hip. Two immediate options, both very good ones: 1) Shoot the 6-footer, mostly uncontested; or 2) One hard power dribble toward the rim and into Harden’s side, certainly drawing a foul and very likely scoring an “And-1.” Instead, Williams spun back around his right shoulder again, this time without even dribbling at all! He flipped up a weak hook shot, but not before the traveling violation.
Big picture, a few things are important to note. First, Williams does not turn the ball over at a particularly high rate. Right now, he’s committing 2.0 turnovers per 36 minutes. Second, Williams is not playing *bad* basketball this year, from a statistical perspective. Currently, his PER is 14.9 and his WS/48 is .093; both just barely below average.
But these types of mistakes are cause for some degree of alarm. He is a second overall pick with the expectations of being a bigtime scorer. By failing to convert–and instead giving the ball away–in efficient opportunities around the basket, he’s dramatically damaging WHAT COULD BE. Also, his assist numbers are dreadful; just 0.7 assists per 36 minutes, making his assist-to-turnover ratio 1 to 3 in the wrong direction. So if he’s going to be so singularly focused on getting his own buckets he should at least go about it in smart ways.
He should ditch that weak spin move and make easy plays. He should trust his short-range shooting ability. Work on a bank shot. He should STOP CROUCHING DOWN INTO A FULL SQUAT BEFORE JUMPING UP TO SHOOT NEAR THE BASKET. (Sorry, caps lock got stuck.) Maybe it would help him to spend some time in the D-League. Last night, D-League veteran Chris Johnson showed little-to-no nerves in his first stint as a Wolf. Maybe all of those high-responsibility/low-pressure reps on a lower level would help calm Derrick down and encourage better habits. The alternative path seems quite clear: More jitters, travels, and shots blocked. Occasional brilliance, but consistent inconsistency. A trade before the upcoming deadline.
Frustrating player to cheer for.