Robert Williams is fast becoming an integral part of the Boston Celtics future. Once viewed as an injury-prone center whose only talent was his athleticism, Williams is now showing there’s more to his game than insane hops.
Williams’ recently signed a contract extension with the Celtics worth $48 million over four years, which is due to begin in the 2022-23 season, per Spotrac. Williams continued development on both ends of the floor has seen him solidify himself as the Celtics starting center, with the team looking notably weaker when he isn’t in the rotation.
That contract, coupled with the 6-foot-8 big man’s increased production, has already begun to make Williams extension look like a brilliant piece of business by Brad Stevens. According to one Eastern Conference GM, who spoke with Heavy.com‘s Sean Deveney, Williams could potentially be a considerable bargain contract for the Celtics.
“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,” The GM said.
Robert Williams Has Continued to Improve his Game
While most Celtics’ fans knew that the Louisiana native could pass the rock, nobody expected the team to look its best with Williams initiating the offense. Yet, that’s precisely what happened during the Celtics December 31 victory over the Phoenix Suns and would likely have continued if Williams wasn’t injured for the January 2 Orlando Magic game.
In his first three seasons in the NBA, Williams has struggled to consistently see the floor due to injury, participating in 32 games as a rookie, 29 as a sophomore, and then 52 last season. However, this year, Williams seems to be playing in a way that protects his body a little more.
Gone is the bouncy big man that bites on every pump fake or explodes for every block attempt. In his place is a center that uses angles and length to force opponents into difficult shots that often get blocked without jumping through the rafters.
Of course, with the additional playing time, Williams’ numbers have also risen, with the big man averaging 10 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists over 28.5 minutes per game, according to Basketball-Reference.
How Can Williams Improve Further?
While the lob finishes, short-roll passing, and electric shot-blocking are all functional aspects of Williams’ game, there are two specific areas that he needs to develop should he wish to take another step forwards.
Those developments are a reliable mid-range jumper and some form of back-to-the-basket play. Of course, rim-runners seldom have a bag full of low-block tricks, but without developing a reliable drop-step or baby-hook jumper, teams will begin scheming Williams out of games by taking away his rolls to the rim.
Sure, the Texas A&M alumn can counter with his short-roll passing. Still, as the Celtics continue to build an offense around mid-post facilitation, Williams’ becoming a scoring threat in that area will grow in necessity. As for the second development, adding a mid-range jumper to his game, Williams would further exploit his short-roll gravity.
Teams counter Williams’ impact by playing drop defense to protect the rim, which also deters cutters from getting downhill, forcing Williams to kick the ball out to the corners or initiate hand-off’s when in the mid-post. If the Celtics big man became a reliable mid-range shooter, defenses would have to step up to guard him around the free-throw line extended, which would open more passing lanes for cutters from the corner or across the baseline.
Regardless of whether these two developments are coming to fruition, Williams is fast becoming an integral piece to the Celtics’ current and future chances of success and will only continue to improve with increased playing time. So, it would seem the Eastern Conference GM is correct; the Celtics do have a potential bargain on their hands.