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Derrick Williams' debut offers glimmer of hope as the Cavs' missing piece

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Derrick Williams, once considered among the handful of top young prospects in all of basketball, is 25 years old and already an NBA nomad.

When the Cleveland Cavaliers signed Williams, the former No. 2 pick in the 2011 draft, to a 10-day contract Thursday, it upped his career count to five different teams through his first six years in the league -- the type of tally an actor covets when it comes to movie roles but athletes want to avoid.

Williams played 22 minutes in his debut in Cleveland's 118-109 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder and scored 12 points, going 3-for-3 from the field and 6-for-8 from the free throw line.

There's no guarantee that Williams latches on as the piece that LeBron James sounded the alarm for a couple weeks back in New Orleans. Days 8-10 of his 10-day contract come during the All-Star break, so really, he only has a week to show he has enough promise to stick around as the missing link.

With Iman Shumpert out the last two games with a sprained left ankle, an injury that Shumpert told ESPN he wasn't sure would be healed enough to play on in the next three games before the break, Williams will get his shot. The Cavs are investing close to $60,000 in salary on the swingman, totaling $200,000 when luxury taxes are factored, and they consider him to be a "high reward, low risk," chance they're taking, a team source told ESPN.

If he works out, great. He may not be the "playmaker" that they have sought -- in fact, when asked if he considered Williams to be a playmaker, coach Tyronn Lue said "I consider him to be a basketball player" -- but he could give Cleveland another able body who can play multiple positions. He would also provide insurance in case Richard Jefferson breaks down as James' primary backup, and he comes in with a fresh, hungry attitude that rubs off on guys the way Channing Frye's gracious perspective was so vital to Cleveland's postseason run when he showed up at midseason a year ago.

It matched up with his mantra. "Energy, effort, efficiency," Williams said. "That's really my three big things: energy, effort and efficiency every single night. I think if you do that, you have a good chance of winning."

Now, the Cavs could find a point guard or a true rim protector on the market in the next two weeks before the Feb. 23 deadline and render Williams a nonessential player.

Or Williams could play like he did Thursday and prove himself so valuable in the extended audition that he'll get picked up for the rest of the way.

"Since I've been in the NBA, I haven't been on a team with a winning record," Williams said. "This is my first day, but you can just feel the energy as soon as you step in the locker room. Everyone is ready to play. That's the championship mentality everyone has here."

Maybe, this was just the place he's been looking for.

Just scanning the visitor's locker room at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Thursday, all the connections Williams already has to the team just one day in were hard to miss. First, there was the release that he asked of Pat Riley from the Miami Heat organization two weeks ago that Riley honored.

"He's awesome," Williams said. "I can't say nothing bad about him." Riley, of course, was responsible for bringing James to Miami and also had a hand in pushing him back out the door.

Williams might not have been in Miami in 2017 if James had stayed there in 2014.

There was Kevin Love, his former teammate in Minnesota, sharing the court with Williams again.

Love might not have been in Cleveland in 2017 if Williams had lived up to the expectations the Wolves had for him as the No. 2 pick when they drafted him in 2011.

There was Kyrie Irving, picked a spot ahead of Williams by Cleveland in the 2011 draft, and Tristan Thompson, picked two spots behind him by the Cavaliers in '11.

Neither of them might have been in Cleveland in 2017 if Williams was picked in one of their spots by the Cavs in 2011 instead.

There was Frye and Jefferson, fellow University of Arizona alumni like Williams.

Williams might not have chosen to go to Arizona in 2009 if Frye hadn't decided to go there in 2001 and kept the program going as a powerhouse. Just like Frye might not have chosen to go there if Jefferson hadn't enrolled in 1998.

All of those sliding doors led Williams to the Cavs on Thursday. They seem to be the perfect fit for him. We'll see if he's the perfect fit for them.