There’s a number of reasons why this logic is flawed. I’m aware of that going in. When we’re talking about a coach, for some reason, we automatically want to assign the same roles to his or her new team as his or her old team. So for Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom is Horace Grant. For Larry Brown, his rookie is every other rookie he’s ruined the hopes and dreams of. But this all disregards the fact that coaches adjust to their rosters, and that not every team is successful.
So when we start to talk about Rick Adelman, it’s all about that Kings team. That’s where everyone goes. That Houston team that made playoff appearances but never made it to the WCF mostly due to injuries but also because of a mismatched roster? That isn’t factored into the equation. There was no Mike Bibby in Houston, no Jason Williams. Kyle Lowry and Rafer Alston before him both had strains of that creator-shooter guard, but nothing really tangible. Chris Webber? Vlade Divac you can I guess kind of see the vein to Yao but in reality, Yao was a whole different beast that you built around.
And yet, the comparisons are booming for Adelman’s new team, the Timberwolves, and those early 00’s Kings. From A Wolf Among Wolves:
While it’s not exactly like looking into a mirror when you put this Wolves squad and the 1999 Kings roster side-by-side, there are a lot of similarities between the two. With the obvious Vlade-Darko jokes aside, the impact Rubio will make on this team is pretty identical to what Jason Williams put out there for the Kings. It wasn’t so much production as it was an attitude of having fun. J-Will unleashed an unbridled enthusiasm that is missing with most teams, let alone a team that just brought in veteran cogs. The difference between the two is Rubio is actually a pretty decent defender and he seems to know his shooting limitations.
Looking at the wings of that 1999 Kings team and the wings the Wolves will have out there next season, there are even more similarities. The Wolves’ combination of Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Martell Webster reminds me an awful lot of the Tariq Abdul-Wahad-Corliss Williamson-Vernon Maxwell-Peja Stojakovic quartet the Kings had. Williams is like a freak hybrid version of Corliss Williamson in that he doesn’t really have a position, will probably be stronger than most of his matchups and can hurt you from various spots on the floor. The big difference is Williams could be a good 3-point shooter as well. Wes Johnson fits into the mold of Tariq in that he is extremely athletic, should be a constant alley-oop target from the pass-happy point guard and can be a pretty good defender. Webster is a younger, better version of the Vernon Maxwell the Kings enjoyed but should provide the same type of experience and perhaps more leadership than what the Kings received from the two-time champion. And then there’s Wayne Ellington stretching the floor the same way that Peja provided (remember this is pre-awesome Peja, not eventual Peja).
via A Wolf Among Wolves.
Zach Harper there goes on to talk about comparisons and he is eventually lead to Kevin Love being the Chris Webber comparison. Talented big man that can score and hit from range. Makes sense.
But in reality, Love’s closer to Divac with his passing ability, range, size, and rebounding. He won’t play center as much and if he does it will be in small lineups. But the comparison I keep envisioning to Webber’s role is that of their rookie, Derrick Williams. An athletic stud with skill who can play either forward spot. Williams and Webber both entered the league at 20 (assuming we get a season). Webber was listed at 6-9, Williams at 6-8. Webber averaged 19.2 points per game at Michigan his sophomore year, Williams 19.5 at Arizona. Webber was a better rebounder, as near Hall-of-Famers tend to be. But for Adelman’s purposes, Williams needs to develop not dizzying array of face-up or post-up moves, or his perimeter shot, but his passing.
Webber’s assist totals weren’t sky-high. At Michigan his last year there, he averaged just 2.5 assists per game. That’s not crazy high. His career NBA average is 4.2. Good, no doubt, but not extremely so. But with the Kings, Webber averaged between 4.1 and 5.5 assists per year, with a high of 5.4. It was his ability to pass from the high post that replaced Jason Williams as the central playmaker, along with Divac, re-configuring the offense and how it was managed. Williams is considered a small forward, but his bulk and frame suggest that he can work in the high post as effectively.
The question is whether he can pass effectively enough to take that role. Williams averaged just 1.1 assists per game at Arizona last season. Watching passing plays of his in Synergy, there is some potential. He’s got good control of the ball and is able to see the floor and spot his teammates. His decision making is sound for the most part and he’s got a cannon of an arm. But to become the all-around asset Webber was, or even a poor man’s version, he’ll need to be willing. Which might be difficult for him given his No. 2 status and previous role as do it all man-beast scorer.
If Williams can adapt, though, the Wolves could make huge strides, even in their first season under Adelman. With Rubio making Rubio-like plays (assuming they are pre-2010 Rubio plays and not the disappointment he turned last year), Love becoming some sort of wholly new beast with his range and rebounding ability, and Darko Milicic relegated to a bruiser, “just don’t screw up” where he belongs, the Wolves might have something. Throw in Wesley Johnson’s perimeter shooting, and the Wolves might surprise a lot of people.
Maybe Love is the closer comparison. But there has to be a more complete role for Williams than just cleaning up misses (he’s a decent not great rebounder) and filling in spot-up shots. He has the ability and confidence to be a big piece of the puzzle. But to get the success he wants, he needs to learn to give better.