When the Cleveland Cavaliers signed Derrick Williams to a 10-day contract last Thursday, no one expected him to have as much impact as he has in his short time with the wine and gold.
In three games with the Cavs so far, the 25-year-old has averaged 10.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game while shooting a very efficient 77 percent from the floor (10-of-13), 33 percent from long distance (1-of-3), and 74 percent from the free-throw line (11-of-15) in 22 minutes per game. Although it’s a very small sample size, Williams has brought a much-needed added dimension to the Cavs’ bench unit, a dimension the team has been in search of for much of the season.
Although Cavs star LeBron James has only had Williams as his teammate for a few days, he already knows what his teammate can do and has made it known that he wants Williams to stick around for the rest of the season following his 10-day contract, Here’s what James had to say over the weekend, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
“We hope that this is a long-term thing. Obviously, we know that he’s on a 10-day contract, but we believe it’s going to be long-term. … We’re happy to have him. It’s not many places you’re going to find a 6-[foot]-8 wing with athleticism like that at 25. So we’re lucky to have him.”
Not only has he brought plenty of energy and scoring off the bench, but Williams has also given the wine and gold another scorer and playmaker, easing the burden off of players like Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. While the two are still playing the same amount of minutes the past three games as they did prior to Williams joining the team, they have been able to rely on the new signee to make plays offensively and therefore not work as hard on the offensive side of the ball at times.
Williams has already shown the versatility he can bring to the Cavs. While coming off the bench, he has been small forward (backing up James at times) and power forward (backing up Kevin Love). He has also acted as a point guard and brought the ball up the court alongside bigger lineups. On the defensive side of the ball, the player who doesn’t really have a specific position has guarded anyone from opposing point guards to opposing big men. A player with versatility like that off that bench is valuable, no matter who it is. With Love out for six weeks after having arthroscopic knee surgery, Williams’ value increases even more.
To say it’s been a rough career so far for the No. 2 pick would be an understatement. With the Cavs, Williams is now on his fifth team in six seasons. While he’s been on five teams, the wine and gold are the first legitimate contender Williams has played for. Could the Cavs give the forward the motivation that he needs? It just could be. James realizes the tough situations his new teammate has been through so far in the NBA and hopes that the Cavs can be the place where Williams can (finally) succeed.
“He’s been in some difficult situations, first of all, and we hope that this is a place that can help him grow and make that next step. He’s 25 years old. It doesn’t seem like it because we’ve been hearing his name for so long. But he’s 25. He hasn’t even gotten to his potential, to his prime yet, so hopefully this group, this locker room, myself, my leadership [helps him]. Just want to see him grow every day, and it’s a good place for him.”
Although he has played just one game in Quicken Loans Arena as a member of the wine and gold, Williams had high praise for the atmosphere that the home crowd brought. He also realizes what he can bring to this team in order to succeed: energy, effort, and efficiency.
“Atmosphere was great, man. I hadn’t experienced anything like that since I’ve been in the NBA. Just taking it all in. Just trying to help this team win. That’s what I’m here for. Just play with energy, play with effort, play with efficiency and try to get a win. That’s why I’m here.”
In case you forgot, going into the 2011 NBA Draft, many people around the NBA (including Cavs fans) wanted the team to draft Williams over Irving with the No. 1 pick. While the argument could be made for both back then, WFNY’s Andrew Schnitkey was a firm believer that the Cavaliers should select Irving. What a smart man he is, right? Obviously, Cleveland chose Irving with the first-overall selection, a decision that turned out very well, but six years after that summer, Irving and Williams are now playing together on the same team.
Only three games into his stint with the Cavs, Williams has already proved that he could be someone that can help the team on their path to winning back-to-back championships. Now, it’s up to general manager David Griffin and head coach Tyronn Lue if he sticks around for the rest of the season and possibly beyond 2017. Will owner Dan Gilbert open his check book even more in order to sign Williams? Reports surfaced that he is willing to do so, will those rumors become reality?