Regardless of how this season ends for the Boston Celtics, the development of Robert Williams will be a silver lining with the fourth-year big man growing in stature by the day.
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens echoed that sentiment during a recent interview with The Athletic’s Jay King.
“And I think the guy that just keeps ascending, which you could see this coming over the last couple of years — really ever since our practices in the bubble, I thought that’s when he took just a totally different look and step — is Rob Williams. I’m so encouraged by his progress,” Stevens explained when discussing some of the brighter spots from this current season.
Williams has become an integral part of Ime Udoka’s rotations this season and is averaging the most minutes per game of his young career, along with career highs in both points and rebounds. Furthermore, a growing contingent of fans wants to see the Louisana native be given a more prominent role within the offense due to his incredible passing ability.
After struggling with injuries for the first two years of his career and having his 2020-21 season cut short due to a turf toe, it finally seems that Williams has gotten his development back on track and is fast becoming an essential piece of this Celtics team long-term future.
Stevens Praises Williams’ Consistency
When people speak of a coach leaning on veteran players, it usually means that the younger contingent is struggling to find consistent production, leaving the coaching staff no choice but to prioritize their veteran group.
Williams, who is, by NBA tenure, a veteran, has started to perform at a consistent level in recent months, showing vast improvements in the process. The shot-blocking extraordinaire no longer bites on every pump fake or gets baited into silly fouls down the stretch. Instead, the Texas A&M alumn has become a valuable asset on the defensive end, switching onto smaller perimeter players and affecting shots all over the floor.
“When people talk about guys that are about the team, guys that only want to win, that usually you know exactly what you’re getting, I think that Rob is at the top of that list. And I think our last six games, since we lost the New York game, he’s been awesome. I usually don’t say that without really looking at it. But those six games I’ve just seen a different level of consistency to his game,” Stevens told King during the interview.
The only thing missing from Williams’ game at this point is a reliable mid-range jump shot. If the bouncy big man could add a reliable foul-line jumper, he would become the complete package as a rim-runner, capable of attacking the rim, initiating the offense, and hurting teams on the short-roll. And with his current developmental trajectory, seeing him add that type of shot into his arsenal in the coming months doesn’t seem that far-fetched.
Williams Looks a Steal on Current Extension
Eyebrows were raised when the Celtics inked Williams to a contract extension this past summer. Most people saw an injury-prone big-man who had yet to show he could be a viable NBA asset secure the bag before he had genuinely earned it.
However, Williams’ four-year $48 million extension, which kicks in next season, now looks like an absolute steal. Of course, that was always part of the plan. Stevens knew that if Williams’ remained healthy this season, his value could potentially sky-rocket and took a leap of faith in that being the case. It seems that the early indications point towards the big man’s extension as a masterstroke by the former Celtics head coach.
“Obviously, with the health issues he has had going back to college, if you are him, you have to take that contract. He had trouble staying on the floor, and there were parts of his game that it has been obvious he needed improvement. Still does. But I think you kind of knew he would have a breakout year if he was able to stay on the floor.
If he had waited and he had become a restricted free agent, he’d have gotten a lot more. He got $48 million, but if he were entering this market this summer, he would be one of the top guys out there, and he’d be more in the $60-65 million range for four years. It would have been a gamble for him, though. Next few years, though, he is going to be a real bargain if he is healthy,” One Eastern Conference GM told Heavy.com’s, Sean Deveny.
Williams missed the Celtics January 17 contest against the New Orleans Pelicans due to the birth of his child. But, will likely return for Boston’s upcoming game against the Charlotte Hornets on January 19, as the Celtics look to put their recent mauling at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers firmly into the rearview mirror.