Wolves bolster bench with smart signing of Mo Williams
The Timberwolves have agreed to sign free agent guard Mo Williams to a one-year contract worth $3.75 million, according to Yahoo! Sports. Minnesota, which is over the salary cap, is able to sign Williams by using a portion of the mid-level exception.
Williams, 31, gave Portland valuable minutes off the bench last season while averaging 9.7 points and 4.3 assists per game. That value was in part linked to the Blazers' general dearth of reserve talent; Williams was one of the very few bench players consistent enough to prove reliable, earning him playing time at both guard positions in both creative and complementary roles. As a result Williams logged more than twice as many postseason minutes per game as any other Blazer sub, earning the slightest bit of rest for starters Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews.
Minnesota's bench won't rely so singularly on Williams, though he'll again be asked to help carry the second unit and cover for Ricky Rubio's rougher patches of play. That role fell to J.J. Barea last year, whose opportunity unfortunately coincided with one of the worst seasons of his career. Adding Williams is an improvement upon that spot -- a better shooter (38.5 percent from deep for his career) and a more balanced offensive player to plug into lineups as needed. He shares in some of Barea's weaknesses (primarily on defense, where Williams is equal in liability), but overall operates with a higher baseline for performance and a more adjustable style of play.
That's particularly important given Minnesota's current situation. A roster overhaul could come at a moment's notice, as the pending discussions around Kevin Love give the Wolves' current makeup a fleeting quality. Change will come. Most any non-essential piece could be moved in the likely event that Love is traded, Barea and Kevin Martin (both of whom have unfavorable contracts) perhaps the most likely of all. This signing hedges against the potential departure of both of those players: Williams will supplant Barea as the team's backup point guard and can offer some of the same floor-stretching value that Martin otherwise would at a fraction of the cost. The entire structure of the team may soon change, but in Williams Minnesota has a useful, flexible piece to help weather this year's transition.
Grade: B-. A solid veteran, a positional upgrade and a perfectly reasonable price point for a team facing all kinds of uncertainty.