A Miami Heat lineup of Hassan Whiteside (27), Derrick Williams (25), Justise Winslow (20), Tyler Johnson (24), and Josh Richardson (23) is a total overhaul from last season's veteran five of Amar'e Stoudemire (34), Luol Deng (31), Joe Johnson (35), Dwyane Wade (34), and Goran Dragic (30).
Pat Riley wants to go young this year, featuring a payroll flexible enough to grab a prized free agent(s) next summer or trade for one in February of 2017, when the Chris Bosh situation may be finally resolved. The prospective lineup of youth has one player, in Williams, who is the biggest unknown to Heat fans.
He was picked second in the 2011 draft, ahead of Tristan Thompson (No. 4), Jonas Valanciunas (No. 5), Kemba Walker (No. 9), Klay Thompson (No. 11), Kawhi Leonard (No. 15), Kenneth Faried (No. 22), Jimmy Butler (No. 30), Isaiah Thomas (No. 60), among others. His athletic ability drew raves in college, but hasn't translated well to the NBA level yet.
A MinnPost article says, "In the middle of this vortex is a 21-year-old kid. On the first day NBA players could interact with the media, Williams turned me off by defending his disappointing rookie season on the flimsy grounds that he had played every game."
Later the reporter writes, " 'I’m feeling a lot better.' Williams said, with a casual tone that seemed more internal mantra than public proclamation."
In his last Sacramento season, cowbellkingdom outlined his strengths and weaknesses.
"Thanks to hard work last off-season, Williams smoothed out the mechanics of his jump shot, which paid off over the course of the schedule. Following the All-Star break, the wing shot 34.4 percent from downtown, while doubling his 3-point attempts to three per game after taking 1.4 in the season’s first half. Williams was excellent from the outside corners, where he shot 39.6 percent for the year."
"Williams’ success from behind the arc forced defenders to close out, opening driving lanes. The forward delivered and scored a career-high 69.6 percent on attempts in the key. Williams showed a knack for finishing contested looks at the rim, as only 12.8 percent of his shots inside five feet were blocked. His SportsCenter-quality dunks accounted for 15 percent of his total shots, converting 89 percent despite high levels of difficulty. Williams made a career-high 44.7 percent of his field goals attempts in total."
"Aside from scoring, Williams was fairly one-dimensional. And that’s before mentioning he shot 30.9 percent on all jumpers, 27.8 percent on above-the-arc 3’s and a career-low 68.4 percent from the free throw line despite straightening his stroke."
"When Williams caught the ball he often looked to score, to the detriment of his teammates. The wing averaged a career-best 5.6 assist percentage but dished only 1.2 assists per 36 minutes, the lowest rate for any Kings small forward. All too often, players cutting to the hoop were ignored in favor of power drives or off-balance mid-range shots."
"Guarding threes or fours, Williams’ struggles on defense remained a concern. The fourth-year pro improved his perimeter play to match league-average levels, yet his work inside left more to be desired. Williams allowed assignments to shoot over 60 percent in the paint, as post players shuffled around him or fooled him with their first move. Williams managed a career-worst 0.1 block per 36 minutes, another reason opponents game-planned their offense in his direction."
If a player such Williams could overcome his weaknesses and reach his full potential, a lineup of him, Whiteside, Winslow, Richardson, T. Johnson would form an athletic and young basketball group. Mix in Dragic as a savvy floor general, the Heat have playoff potential few expect. Bosh, Josh McRoberts and Briante Weber are the other signed players who remain question marks for the upcoming season.
The answer to the Bosh question remains the cornerstone to the Heat's season. How Williams at $5 million and McRoberts at $6 million, pan out could be the other factor to determine Miami's success or failure.
If the coaching staff could solve the puzzle of what held Derrick Williams back, the Heat would have the steal of free agent signings this summer. An attitude adjustment in a winning culture might be what the doctor ordered. After serving stints in three losing organizations, perhaps being exposed to the competitive fire of Riley, Spoelstra and Haslem could be all it takes to have Derrick perform like a number 2 draft pick.