If you ever bump into Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro, chances are his cellphone is nearby.
Constantly looking for ways to improve the roster, D’Alessandro made his first move of the regular season Tuesday afternoon, acquiring forward Derrick Williams from the Minnesota Timberwolves for forward Luc Mbah a Moute.
It’s a move that adds needed athleticism to the Kings’ roster while also giving Williams, the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, a chance to put his two-plus seasons of uncertainty in Minnesota behind him.
This embodies the Kings’ new approach to their roster.
It’s no longer about making deals simply for cash considerations. Rather, it’s looking at moves that could be low risk and yield high rewards. The Kings will continue to be active in pursuing deals that could accelerate the rebuilding process.
“We have to be aggressive,” D’Alessandro said. “We owe it to the fans who have been so patient, and they’re partners in the process.”
D’Alessandro is still in the evaluation phase with the roster he inherited in June along with players he’s brought in such as Mbah a Moute, who was acquired in July from Milwaukee for two second-round draft picks.
The scouting report on the Kings through 13 games had been that they still lacked athleticism, and the scoring from their forwards has mostly been dismal. Williams, who arrived in Sacramento on Tuesday and was expected to be practicing by Thursday after a physical, should help in both areas. He will be available to play Friday night when the Kings host the Los Angeles Clippers.
“We are going to welcome him with open arms,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “We are going to give him confidence, we are going to allow him to play his game within our team concept and give him every opportunity to succeed and live up to that No. 2 selection.”
There are various reasons why Williams (6-foot-8, 240 pounds) failed to meet that expectation in Minnesota. He averaged 12 points per game last season, but that has dipped to 4.9 points through 11 games in a reduced role. There have been questions about how he fit into Rick Adelman’s offense and whether he was a small or power forward.
The Kings plan to use Williams at small forward while also giving him time at power forward or the “four” spot.
“There are people who think he’s a four, I get it,” D’Alessandro said. “But I don’t want to be locked into positions. I want athletes, I want guys who can play a role and what we need them to do, and I think Derrick can do that.”
The Kings haven’t gotten the results they’d like, for the most part, at either forward spot. Mbah a Moute had played well lately in a defensive role. His modest offensive output (4.4 points) was not an issue, but replacing his defense will be.
“That was one of my concerns,” Malone said. “We went out and got Luc for a reason this offseason, because of his ability to defend at a high level.”
Without anyone to fill that void, the Kings will challenge Williams to defend while also adding a needed boost on offense.
One thing that has slowed down center DeMarcus Cousins is that multiple defenders are free to guard him because they don’t have to worry about the Kings’ frontcourt consistently making them pay.
“To have a guy on the wing or next to you at the power forward spot that can put pressure on the defense and make plays, now it’s going to be a lot harder to take away DeMarcus,” Malone said. “Maybe they won’t be so willing to put two or three guys on him at times.”
That will be the case if Williams displays the offensive skills he showed at Arizona that made him a top prospect.
Williams averaged 17.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in two seasons. He shot 58.8 percent from the field, including 51.1 percent from 3-point range.
Kings guard Isaiah Thomas played against him for two seasons while at Washington and said Williams’ versatility made him tough to defend.
“He could shoot the ball. He could put the ball on the floor. He could play with his back to the basket a little bit,” Thomas said. “He was a tough cover in college. It’s going to be a new start for him, and I can’t wait to get going with him.”