A recent article by ESPN TrueHoop Network's Beckley Mason touched on the subject of the "tweener" in the NBA. When that word pops up, the mind quickly wanders to former Arizona Wildcats forward Derrick Williams.
Entering his second season in the NBA, Williams has been rumored as a trade chip for the Minnesota Timberwolves rather than a part of their future. While his struggles to adapt to the NBA could just be a young guy being thrown into the fire and with high expectations as the No. 2 overall pick in 2011, it could also be his role as a stereotypical tweener.
tweener, n. -- a basketball player 6-foot-8 or shorter, who possibly has perimeter-oriented skills but without the speed and quickness of a stereotypical small forward (Andre Iguodala being a good stereotype for a small forward).
Mason assertively went straight to Williams in his piece. The point of it all? If a player is a tweener, he's really just a power forward.
Could Williams' underwhelming improvements be the case of misuse of his game by the Timberwolves and to a degree, in Williams' mind himself? After all, his bread and butter is scoring off a quick first step in the high post, not playing one-on-one ball at the three-point line. And defending NBA small forwards? Forget about it.
Tweeners are a labeled and that misguides their true effect on the game. Another tweener, Denver Nuggets' forward Kenneth Faried, is fairing quite well despite his undersized frame. Williams is a different player altogether, but that doesn't mean he won't find success as has Faried.
I wrote before Williams decided to leave UA that he'd have trouble because of the tweener label. While correct in a way, I was wrong on one account.
Williams must keep with his bread and butter high post game at the next level. His athleticism and strength will eventually get to where he'll be capable of playing the same way he did at Arizona -- an utterly efficient player who didn't need many touches or dribbles to put up 20 points.
But so far, he could be stuck in a rut of thinking he's something he's not; that's on Minnesota and himself. Quotes by coach Rick Adelman to the StarTribune made it clear that Williams can't take a passive approach to the game and that his willingness to play small forward is all on himself.