While Williams’ recent meniscus tear might have scuppered what looked to be a strong end to his first season as a starter, the Louisana native has already done enough to impress his peers and position himself as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
“Having an incredible year, having a Defensive Player of the Year caliber season. Nobody talks about his offense, he’s one of the best passing big men in the league right now,” Green said, “Robert Williams is one of the best passing big men that I’ve seen, and no one talks about it.”
Celtics fans have been aware of Williams’ passing ability for some time, and at times, have implored the team’s coaching staff to utilize the big man’s ability as an offensive initiator, but his lob threat has always been considered to be the greater weapon, and rightly so.
Ime Udoka Admits Williams Passing Was a Surprise
When Udoka took the reigns as the Celtics’ head coach last summer, he probably thought he had a pretty good handle on the teams’ players and what they were capable of. After all, the incoming coach had worked with a lot of the team’s core rotation during his time as an assistant with Team USA.
Yet it would seem that Udoka never counted on inheriting such a talented passing big man, as he recently told the media that Williams’ secondary ability came as a surprise early in training camp.
“I think he’s better than I knew coming in, and I saw that early in training camp. It’s an area that I think is underestimated for him. So it depends on what we play out of, more so than the fact that he’s really grown in that area. I think I was surprised more than the other people here when I got here how well he passes the ball,” Udoka said.
According to Cleaning The Glass, Williams ranks in the 88th percentile of bigs in the league for assist-to-usage ratio, meaning he often makes the right read over forcing a shot or trying to dribble himself out of trouble. It’s that decision-making that has made the Lousiana native so valuable in Udoka’s fast-decision offense.
Williams Expected Back by Second Round of Playoffs
When the man affectionately dubbed “The Timelord” initially left the court against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 27, fans began to panic about the Celtics’ chances of success in the playoffs should their defensive anchor be ruled out for the rest of the season.
Then the news broke that Williams had suffered a meniscus tear, fans around the world hit the panic button. Many believed that without their core rim protector – Williams is second in the NBA for blocks – the Celtics risked an early exit from the playoffs for the second year running.
Luckily, Williams underwent successful surgery and is expected to return to the floor within the next four-to-six weeks, meaning the Celtics will only need to navigate their way through the first round, and potentially the opening games of the second round before their bouncy big man returns to the lineup.
Williams has been a revelation this season and is getting the recognition his elite level of play deserves. When the Celtics inked him to a contract extension in the summer, they were betting on the six-foot-eight big man developing once he got healthy and had a run with the first team. It’s safe to say that the gamble has paid off, and will continue to pay off in the coming months and years.