Derrick Williams’ quest to fulfill the potential that made him the second overall pick of the 2011 NBA draft has brought him to Spring Valley High School for the Kings’ summer league minicamp.
Most second-overall picks no longer compete in summer leagues after their rookie season or maybe second year, but Williams is preparing for the fourth and most important season of his career.
Williams is in the final season of his rookie contract, which will pay him $6.7 million. If he hopes to earn a salary close to that beyond the coming season, Williams must prove he can consistently contribute to an NBA team, which hasn’t happened in three seasons with the Kings and Timberwolves.
Some high draft picks entering their fourth season might frownon the idea of spending part of their summer playing with rookies or undrafted free agents just trying to make an NBA team. That’s not the case with Williams, who realizes the importance of this offseason for his future.
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Williams practiced with the Kings for the first time this week on Wednesday after being excused for two days for personal reasons.
“I wanted to play. I told coach I wanted to come out and play in the summer,” Williams said. “That’s the main thing, getting out and playing throughout the summer. You never want to play against the same competition over and over and over. So getting out here, playing against different guys everyday and having real refs is good.”
The Kings made monitoring Williams’ progress this offseason a top priority, with coaches and front-office staff making several trips to Los Angeles, where Williams lives in the offseason, to evaluate his progress.
The Kings don’t have the financial flexibility to add many more players unless they come via trade, so part of the team’s improvement will depend on on the progress of players such as Williams.
“We’ve given Derrick a lot of attention,” said Kings coach Michael Malone.
That’s appreciated by Williams, who came to the Kings in a trade last season from Minnesota, where the Timberwolves used the second pick of the 2011 draft on 6-foot-8 forward but never figured how to best use him.
“It means a lot whenever you have your head coach, all your assistant coaches, guys like (director of athletic performance) Chip (Schaeffer) that have seen winners (visiting),” Williams said. “They were coming out and seeing me every single day, and it really means a lot. Ever since I’ve been in the NBA that’s never happened. Going into my fourth year having head coaches and GMs come to watch me work out, that means a lot.”
The Kings would like to see more consistent shooting from Williams, who shot 43.7 percent in 67 games with the Kings, in addition to being a better defender.
The Kings want Williams to attack the basket and develop his post game on offense. Williams shot 59 percent from 5 feet and closer to the basket for the entire season but just 30 percent (81 of 270) from elsewhere on the floor.
“Coach really wants me to knock down a lot of shots this summer, get up hundreds of shots every single day and just being able to knock down the three, mid-range shots and things like that,” Williams said. “I feel like if I can do that and add that to my game, it opens up everything else that I have done in the NBA. If I knock down shots, it opens up everything.”
That would bode well for Williams’ future. He might be the most athletic player the Kings have, but he has to show that his game has improved to the point that a team would want to offer a multiyear deal beyond this season.
Williams believes putting in extra hours in the summer will help secure his future in the league.
“I think if they like what I’ve been doing all summer, all the contract stuff will work itself out,” he said.