NBA

The Disappearance of No. 2 Overall Pick in the 2011 NBA Draft Derrick Williams

Less than a decade ago the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Derrick Williams with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2011 NBA draft behind Kyrie Irving. Due to a lack of production, Williams played less than three seasons in Minnesota before bouncing around to five different teams. Williams played briefly for the LA Lakers in 2017-18, then vanished from the NBA. What happened? Where is he today?

Derrick Williams is a star in college

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Derrick Williams was a welcome addition to the University of Arizona basketball team and new head coach Sean Miller. In 2009, Miller’s first season at the helm, Williams was his prized recruit. With that, came high expectations. 

Williams delivered that first season in Tucson. The 6-foot-8-inch freshman out of California was a force for the Wildcats as he averaged 15.7 points per game and pulled in 7.1 rebounds. For his efforts, he was named to the All-Pac-10 first team and was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Despite his performance, the Wildcats finished with a 16-15 record and missed the NCAA Tournament.

During Williams’s second year in the desert, his production increased. The sophomore averaged 19.5 points and grabbed 8.3 boards per game. His efforts were instrumental in Arizona’s dramatic improvement, which saw the Wildcats win the Pac-10 title, and finish with a 30-8 record that included a deep run in the NCAA Tournament losing to eventual champion Connecticut in the regional finals. 

Williams was a Wooden Award Finalists, named the Pac-10 Player of the Year, and second-team All-American. Following the season, he declared himself eligible for the NBA draft.

Williams and his disappointing career in the NBA

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The Minnesota Timberwolves saw the numbers Derrick Williams had put up his sophomore year and the leadership he displayed with the Wildcats in the NCAA Tourney. Minnesota eagerly grabbed Williams with the second overall pick of the 2011 NBA draft after the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Kyrie Irving.

Irving’s career has been stellar including six All-Star appearances. Williams has not. He lasted just over two seasons in Minnesota, including the best year of his NBA career in 2012-13, where he averaged 12 points per game. He hasn’t come close to that offensive output since.

In the 2013-14 season, the Timberwolves traded Williams to the Sacramento Kings. It would be the first of multiple moves during the next five seasons. The highlight of his NBA career came in the 2016-17 season when he joined the Cleveland Cavaliers in the middle of the season and was on the roster for the NBA Finals, where they lost to Golden State Warriors.

After a brief stint in China in 2017-2018, Williams returned stateside on a 10-day contract with the LA Lakers. He lasted just the 10 days and hasn’t played in the NBA since.

Derrick Williams disappears from NBA

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With his options all but gone following his time in LA, Derrick Williams looked overseas and, in particular, to Europe. He moved to Germany where he joined the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague in 2018-2019 and played for FC Bayern Munich.

To his credit, Williams showed flashes of his old self, albeit against lesser competition, and scored a season-high 27 points and averaged 13.4 points per game with Bayern Munich. Despite the new league, Williams is following the same pattern and changing addresses with regularity. This past season he played for Fenerbahçe in Turkey where he scored a season-high 22 points on two occasions and averaged 11.3 points per game. 

By most accounts, Derrick Williams is considered a big-time bust. He never came close to living up to expectations, especially when you consider the careers of others drafted after him, including Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, and Klay Thompson. Despite that label, he’s still pursuing his dream in Europe and finding modest success in the process.

All statistics courtesy of Sports Reference.