Robert Williams goes to overlook 8-12 weeks of motion. In flip, the Boston Celtics‘ Protection is about to take a large hit. They need to nonetheless be one of many high defensive items within the league, however with out Williams, they are going to be lacking an enormous a part of what made them particular on that finish of the ground.
For the primary time in his profession, Williams wasn’t requested to defend opposing bigs. As a substitute, Al Horford took on these duties, leaving Williams to protect the nook and roam. He performed a “free security” position on protection, floating over to the lane, blocking pictures on drives, and shutting down opposing offenses.
Based mostly on the preseason, it appears as if Joe Mazzulla plans on going small to start out the yr with Derrick White within the beginning lineup. And whereas this small ball lineup creates some constraints concerning the free security position, that does not imply Boston ought to abandon the concept altogether.
As for who would change Williams within the position, Jayson Tatum stands out as the apparent selection.
Tatum is listed at 6’8, only one inch shorter than what Williams is listed at, however in actuality, they appear across the identical peak after they play subsequent to every. Williams is an athletic freak, nevertheless, which permits him to play taller than his peak, however Tatum is not a non-athletic wing. He might not be capable of get as excessive as Williams, but when he can study the proper timing and spacing, it might be a precious software to have.
This is Williams taking up the free security position. As a substitute of guardian Kelly Olynyk, he is within the nook on Cory Joseph. When Olynyk will get the ball on the within, Williams rotates over and denies him on the rim.
For Tatum, he would primarily be enjoying this position in lineups with Horford and no secondary huge. The lineup of Marcus Sensible, White, Jaylen Brown, Tatum, and Horford did not get a ton of minutes final yr, however Tatum did play the half in some lineups the place Williams wasn’t on the ground.
On this play, Tatum is within the nook, simply as Williams could be, matched up in opposition to Delon Wright. When Trae Younger makes a transfer towards the rim, Tatum rotates over and stuffs him.
Once more, here is Tatum guarding the nook man, Matisse Thybulle. Tyrese Maxey breaks by means of the protection, however Tatum is there in time to document the block. This play is barely totally different as a result of it happens in transition, however the fundamentals of the protection stay true.
These are two cherry-picked examples from an extended season full of various defensive appears, however the level is that Tatum has acted within the free security position earlier than. It will not be one thing he is used to, however he is able to doing it in sure conditions. And with Williams out for an prolonged time period, spending extra time within the position might assist the Celtics preserve their elite defensive presence.
Having Tatum guard the nook and rotate over at a second’s discover might additionally assist the group’s rebounding. Of their preseason finale in opposition to the Toronto Raptors, Boston received utterly out-hustled on the glass. If Tatum had been to sit down within the nook because the free security, he would be capable of focus extra on rebounding.
Now, as talked about, there are undoubtedly downsides to inserting Tatum within the Williams position, one in every of which being the Celtics would lose him as a fringe defender. Tatum’s an elite on-ball defender, and having him play off the ball could be disregarding that talent at factors within the sport.
Nevertheless, with Sensible, White, and Brown holding issues down up on the perimeter, Boston ought to be capable of spare Tatum a bit at instances. He would not must play the Williams position 24/7, nevertheless it’s undoubtedly a glance they need to really feel comfy throwing on the market.
And, if something, the truth that he’s such a terrific perimeter defender would solely assist him play free security. When Williams acted in that position final yr, defenses would generally get the ball to the nook and have that participant take Williams one-on-one. Oftentimes, this resulted in a chase-down block, as Williams is fast and athletic sufficient to maintain up with smaller gamers.
That is an instance of simply that. DeAndre Bembry tries to take Williams off the dribble however finally ends up getting blocked from behind.
This is Tatum getting beat by Dejounte Murray however recovering in an enormous method.
Tatum’s block wasn’t fairly as explosive as Williams’, and until he magically positive aspects 5 inches on his vertical, they by no means shall be. However a block is a block. Tatum is fast sufficient to regain floor on faster defenders and lengthy sufficient to dam them from behind. That is the place his abilities as a fringe defender will come into play. (They will additionally assist him chorus from getting blown by within the first place.)
It is also essential to notice the apparent distinction in dimension. When Williams was enjoying this position, Boston ran a large lineup, with Sensible being the shortest participant. After that, that they had Brown, Tatum, Williams, and Horford. If Tatum had been to tackle the duty, he’d be doing it in a extra conventional lineup. For that motive, Tatum ought to solely play the free security position in opposition to lineups the place it will be advantageous.
For instance, let’s take a look at this play in opposition to the Miami Warmth final yr Tatum is enjoying within the nook, the place he could be stationed because the free security, however the man he is guarding is Max Strus (an elite three-point shooter). Due to that, Tatum is so targeted on stopping an open three that Bam Adebayo is ready to get an open layup.
This identical factor might happen in opposition to groups just like the Brooklyn Nets (Seth Curry) Golden State Warriors (Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole), and Milwaukee Bucks (Pat Connaughton). Basically, any group that has a chosen shooter positioned within the nook would be capable of break up the free security position, particularly in opposition to Tatum, who would not be as comfy in that place as Williams was.
Nevertheless, in opposition to a group just like the Raptors, who do not essentially have any knockdown three-point shooters, inserting Tatum within the nook might be a good thought. Each time the opposing group locations a non-shooter within the nook or dunker spot, having Tatum play the free security position might be one thing to significantly think about.
It should not be a everlasting change. Tatum remains to be a top-notch perimeter defender, and the Celtics want him to protect the perimeter when matching up with gamers like Kevin Durant or Bradley Beal. Nevertheless, after they can get away with it, permitting Tatum to roam the courtroom as a free security would permit their protection to keep up that concept whereas Williams is sidelined, giving them one more distinctive look to throw at opponents.