Robert Williams has easily been one of the highlights of the season for the Boston Celtics, as he’s cemented his place within the rotation and become one of the best rim protectors in the league.
We all knew the athletic rim runner had the potential to become extremely impactful, but an injury-riddled few years to begin his career had left many expecting the worst. However, Brad Stevens placed his trust in Williams last summer when he placed a contract extension on the table, and neither party has looked back since.
Williams’ high-level play hasn’t just impressed the fan base, though. It’s also earned players’ respect around the league, including those on his own team. Yet, the Lousiana native’s rapid recovery from meniscus surgery has garnered most of the headlines in recent weeks, with many shocked at how quickly he returned to the floor.
In a recent media appearance, Al Horford shared his thoughts on Williams’ quick return and the young big’s commitment to improving throughout the season.
“Very impressed with how Rob tackled this setback. He was the first one in here every day. Working on his body, working on different things, conditioning – just trying to do as much as he can to come and help us. He knows how much we need him. And I was just really impressed with his consistency, and that just speaks to him.
All year he’s been that consistent, weight room, treatment, and getting his shots up on the court. That’s what’s really impressed me with him, and he’s taken a huge leap this year. It’s a lot of credit to him, and the work he has put in is showing,” Al Horford said
Williams’ Rim Protection Integral for Boston
There aren’t many players in the NBA who can match Williams’ level of athleticism, regardless of their height, weight, or position. The “Timelord” is known for his incredible leaping ability, and Ime Udoka has put that to good use on the defensive end this year.
Williams may have improved when defending the perimeter, but the coaching staff prefers to place him in the corner, defending the opposing team’s worst shooter. Usually, that type of defensive positioning is saved for the team’s worst defender, but by placing Williams on a non-scoring threat, it allows him to roam around the paint and challenge any player brave enough to attack the rim or penetrate off the dribble.
According to NBA Stats, Williams finished the regular season second in blocks per game and has a genuine argument to make an NBA All-Defensive team at the end of the basketball calendar. Sure, we’re yet to see a similar impact from the big man in the playoffs, but given his quick return from surgery, it’s only a matter of time before he finds his rhythm and gets back to his rim-protecting best.
Milwaukee Matchup is Bad for Williams
Not many teams project as a bad matchup for Robert Williams; his leaping ability usually means that he can create an advantage for himself regardless of the opponent. However, the Milwaukee Bucks are one of the few teams capable of nullifying the Texas A&M product on both sides of the court.
With Brook Lopez, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Bobby Portis in Milwaukee’s frontcourt, Williams cannot pressure the rim, which forces him to operate on the elbows, where his athleticism is no longer an advantage.
Furthermore, all of Milwaukee’s frontcourt is big, sturdy, and extremely physical, which means they’re capable of dislodging Williams whenever they please. As such, we’re unlikely to see the best of the Celtics surging big man throughout this series, but can hope that if Boston make it to the conference finals, where they will likely face the Miami Heat, we can begin to see the version of Williams that dominated throughout the regular season.