What the subsequent degree seems to be like for Celtics huge man Robert Williams III

Shams Charania of The Athletic launched his newest NBA commerce slop drop Monday morning, and it restated a number of factors on the Boston Celtics’ involvement within the Kevin Durant sweepstakes. Notably, in response to Charania, Boston has not made Marcus Good or Robert Williams III out there.

Good is entrenched within the Celtics franchise as its longest-tenured participant, emotional chief and reigning Defensive Participant of the 12 months. However the withholding of Williams additionally speaks to how extremely regarded he’s on the roster and the way important he was to Boston’s NBA Finals run final season.

Williams broke out huge time in 2021-22, averaging 10.0 factors, 9.6 rebounds and a pair of.2 blocks per sport with a surprising 73.6% clip from the ground. He landed on the All-Defensive Second Workforce and anchored among the finest defenses within the league. A yr in the past this Wednesday, Williams signed a four-year contract that could possibly be value as much as $54 million. He is already made that seem like a large discount.

The 2018 first-round choose thrives in his classically-defined archetype as a rim-protecting heart, two-way rebounder and lob finisher. Williams has already showcased elite traits in that position — traits that, if he by no means improved even fractionally, would nonetheless be among the many finest on the earth for the subsequent a number of years.

Nonetheless, Williams’ position additionally clouds viewers’ visualizations of his subsequent steps. At age 24, and, with one healthy-ish season below his belt, Williams nonetheless has loads of room to develop with the Celtics. But when he is already so good at what he does, and Boston not often asks him to do the rest, what’s the trajectory for his influence?

Luckily, between Williams’ further expertise and his practical areas of enchancment, he can proceed to shoulder extra accountability as a younger huge man.

Celtics followers have constantly marveled over Williams’ passing flashes throughout his first few seasons within the league. His assist-to-usage charge has been within the high 20% amongst facilities in every of the previous three years, per Cleansing the Glass. And, regardless of receiving few touches outdoors of play-finishing possibilities, Williams can dazzle together with his imaginative and prescient.

When Boston tapped into Williams as a passer, they usually set him up on the high of the arc or barely offset on the wings. It is wonderful how imposing he’s from that vary regardless of posing zero risk as a shooter or driver. Having Williams quarterback the offense from right here additionally opens up alternatives for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to maneuver off the ball and use their energy and pace to get open as an alternative of ball-handling and creating.

It is nearly like Tatum is operating a large receiver choice route within the above clips. Within the first two performs, Jayson is slipping screens and slicing to the basket whereas Williams rifles passes in for layups. Within the third clip, Tatum is utilizing a Payton Pritchard flare display and hitting a 3. The fourth clip is one other flare display, however Williams and Tatum each acknowledge the open house, and the previous leads the famous person right into a driving layup. For good measure, the final clip is Brown faking off an analogous pindown and slicing to the basket.

With “Timelord” operating the present, off-ball defenders must key in on Boston’s dynamic duo, and it opens up straightforward reads for him to make, like this one to Grant Williams:

The gripe right here will not be with Williams III; quite, I want the Celtics would put him in these positions extra usually. He has a excessive total turnover charge, however not often provides the ball away in these conditions. It locations much less of a load on Tatum and Brown as self-creators and will get extra gamers shifting across the half-court typically.

There’s additionally untapped intrigue with him on the excessive publish. In line with PBP Stats, Williams III had 84 elbow touches throughout the whole 2021-22 common season. His 16.7% help charge ranked second among the many 99 gamers with not less than 75 elbow touches, behind solely Memphis Grizzlies huge man Steven Adams. Now, a few of these touches are mere handoffs. However others are Williams connecting with shooters on a brief roll, or directing site visitors out of a publish contact.

Jared Weiss of The Athletic detailed how Boston’s offense drifted away from post-ups because the season went on, and the way including extra again with Williams concerned might make sense. Given Williams’ imaginative and prescient and the success that comes when gamers orbit round him, I’d agree.

Any particular person scoring improvement like a mid-range leap shot could be icing on the cake, as Trevor Hass of Celtic’s weblog wrote. However head coach Ime Udoka already has untapped potential proper in entrance of him within the type of Williams as a passing hub. Manifesting extra touches for a tertiary choice is way simpler mentioned than accomplished, however integrating Williams additional might significantly juice a Celtics offense that usually stagnated.

Defensively, nonetheless, the onus is on Williams to enhance his switchability.

The 6-foot-9-inch heart is a outstanding roamer and shot-blocker — within the highest echelon of rim-warping gamers throughout the league. He hit his defensive stride strongly down the stretch as a result of Udoka and the teaching workers put him in defensive positions to achieve success. Sporting Information author Stephen Noh intricately broke down
how the Celtics saved Williams out of the on-ball limelight at any time when doable and made his job all about rotating and swatting.

That is nice, and it proved to achieve success sufficient to get Boston to inside two video games of a championship. It additionally required some luck and a few heavy lifting from Al Horford, who used a stretch of fine well being to play a number of the finest switching protection we noticed all season at age 35.

Horford, now 36, cannot be anticipated to hold the identical burden all through one other title push, and the Celtics solely have one different heart in line for doable rotation minutes in Luke Kornet. Williams must defend in ball-screen protection and change onto guards at sure factors.

Final yr, it did not go so properly. Boston began out switching 1-through-5 on protection and altered that because the yr went on. Who is aware of if it was Williams who brought on the shift, however his struggles definitely performed a component.

As proven within the clip above, Williams cannot transfer with the required lateral quickness to cease drives on the root. He has to depend on his size to catch up when he will get beat, and whereas that results in some highlight-reel restoration blocks, it isn’t a fail-safe he ought to need to lean on. Williams can also be traditionally a foul-prone perimeter participant who bites on pump-fakes far too usually, although he tempered these temptations final yr.

I might declare that Williams improved within the moments he did have to change onto isolations later within the season. It appeared he performed these possessions extra conservatively and was prepared to surrender the three-ball, realizing he has the vertical pop to achieve photographs like this:

Do not count on Williams to grow to be some unicorn-like defender who can smother gamers everywhere in the courtroom. If Williams can not less than comprise drives and hold defenders excited about the specter of a block, that is a win for Boston. He is bought the all-world rim safety in his pocket already.

Williams is already a high-end beginning heart whose skills may help Boston get again to the Finals. If he breezes via a heavier passing workload and makes some progress as an on-ball defender, we could possibly be speaking a couple of sub-All-Star kind of heart subsequent season.

Robert Williams III solely underscores that the Celtics, even after reaching June, nonetheless have room for progress.

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