On September 5, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype released his rankings of the top 25 centers playing in the NBA entering the 2022-23 season. The Boston Celtics had two of their centers make an appearance on the list: Al Horford and Robert Williams III. While Horford got a spot among the top 15 centers on the list, Williams placed even higher as the eighth-best center in the league, according to Urbina.
Urbina explains why he had Williams ranked eighth among the NBA’s top centers.
“The second Boston center on our list, Robert Williams was one of the Celtics’ most important players on their 2022 run to the Finals, boasting a huge presence down low as a shot-blocker, altering shots and making life extremely difficult for opposing rim attackers.
“On the campaign overall, Williams put up career-high marks across the board, including 10.0 points nightly, 9.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 2.2 blocks while shooting an astounding 73.6 percent from the floor. Even his free-throw shooting, formerly as a weakness, was far less troublesome, with the Texas A&M product hitting a solid 72.2 percent of his shots from the stripe.”
Urbina also pointed out how efficient Williams is in the pick-and-roll and as a rebounder on the offensive glass.
“In 2021-22, Williams produced 1.33 PPP as the roll man, the 15th-best mark league-wide among players with at least 60 such chances. Williams also feasts on the offensive glass, where he created 1.24 PPP on put-backs, a mark healthy enough to sit in the league’s 75th percentile.”
Williams ranked ahead of players previously named to all-star teams like Brook Lopez of the Milwaukee Bucks and Nikola Vucevic of the Chicago Bulls.
Can Williams Get Better Offensively?
While praising Williams for what he can currently do on the court, Urbina asked if it’s possible his role on offense will expand as his career goes on, though he brings up that even if Williams doesn’t, he can still do plenty on that end.
“Does Williams have another gear in him to become more of a focal point on offense?
“His lack of outside shooting touch and unrefined post-up moves indicate that maybe not, but even so, the supremely athletic big man with the ridiculous wingspan can finish just about everything down low, as evidenced by his field-goal percentage, and his hands have improved to the point he’s a huge threat out of the pick-and-roll.”
According to NBA.com, Williams took 35 shot attempts that were five feet or more away from the basket during the 2021-22 season compared to 333 shots he took that were less than five feet away from the rim.
Williams doesn’t go to the mid-range often, but he has shown he can make some of his jumpshots when he takes them. Williams shot 11-for-25 on shots that were five to nine feet away from the basket, according to NBA.com.
Horford Ranked No. 13 on the List
After ranking Horford 13th among the NBA’s best 25 centers, Urbina praised Horford for the comeback season he had with the Celtics two years after his failed stint with their division rival two seasons prior.
“After an unimpressive stint with the Philadelphia 76ers, Al Horford went back to the Boston Celtics and immediately returned to form as one of the more uniquely impactful two-way big men in the league.
“Horford’s raw numbers weren’t huge, as the Dominican center averaged 10.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.3 blocks nightly, but his impact was enormous, as the Celtics were 3.3 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor, a number that grew to 5.1 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs.”
Urbina added that Horford should play a role in Boston being among the title contenders for the 2022-23 season.
“With the Celtics reaching the Finals last season and coming within two games of a championship, expectations will be high again in 2022-23, and we expect Horford to do his part next year in helping Boston remain a contender.”