Grant Williams has been a rare shining light for the Boston Celtics in what’s been a tough start to the season. After a rough 2020-21 NBA season, the third-year wing has proven to be a valuable member of Ime Udoka’s rotation, providing solid production on both ends of the floor.
During the off-season, Williams, looking notably lighter, spoke of his change of approach when it came to his body and why he felt losing some weight off his powerful frame would help him perform better this season.
“My rookie year, I had to gain weight to play the 5. Then I never lost that weight. Now, I’ve lost 12-15 pounds. I’ve got another 8-10 to lose to be able to play the 4 more,” Williams told those in attendance at the Celtics media day.
It makes sense that the former Tennesse big would opt to slim down after he struggled to keep pace with opposing fours last season, essentially forcing himself into a small-ball five role that came with far less impactful minutes. However, since the start of the current season, Williams has been one of the Celtics’ most consistent players, especially when shooting the three.
According to Cleaning The Glass, which has a garbage time filter, Williams is shooting 51% from the corners and 44% overall when taking three’s, ranking him in the top 9% of bigs in the league. Beyond the three-pointers, Williams is also finishing 86% of his looks at the rim, placing him in the 99th percentile, and is hitting 51.4% of his total field goals, per Basketball-Reference.
Finally, despite only getting to the line once per game on average, Williams is shooting 90.5% from the charity stripe, thus giving the big man the coveted 50/40/90 stat line.
Such a stat line is usually reserved for the league’s elite, or at minimum, some of the most efficient and consistent role players around the league – think Malcolm Brogdan who achieved this feat while playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Furthermore, to make things even more interesting, no other player in the league is currently averaging a 50/40/90, leaving Williams in a class of his own.
Even the Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry, is struggling to maintain his extraordinary level of play while being above 50% from the field. And dropped below his own 50/40/90 earlier this month and is now averaging 47/42/94.
Williams Has Become an Integral Part of the Rotation
It was almost unfathomable to think that Williams will go from borderline unplayable to being one of Boston’s most impactful players in the span of six months, yet that’s exactly whats happened.
By improving his three-point shooting, screening ability, defensive mobility, and communication skills, the former 22nd pick has found himself as one of Udoka’s most trusted lieutenants.
In fairness, the Celtics’ new lineup, which for the most part, features two big’s in the rotation, has helped Williams earn more floor time. Yet, it’s talkative big’s performances on the court that has won over the coaching staff and a fan base calling for him to be either traded or cut towards the end of last season.
Williams has started 8 of the Celtics 21 games this season, usually filling in for either Robert Williams or Al Horford. He has found himself while also averaging the most minutes of his young career with 21.6 per game.
Certain Sections of Celtics Fans Want Williams to Start
In what is quickly becoming a Cinderella story of sorts, large sections of the Celtics fan base are now calling for Grant Williams to be given an opportunity as the team’s de facto starting power forward.
With the injury concerns surrounding athletic center Robert Williams, and Al Horford’s aging body likely needing additional rest as we get deeper into the season, it’s highly likely that Williams finds himself earning a starting role before the end of the season.
Another aspect of Williams’ play that has been vastly improved has been his off-ball cutting, with the big man being one of the more active off-ball players – something which Udoka’s system demands from everybody on the court. It would seem that Udoka and the coaching staff find value in what Williams brings to the floor, and should he keep producing at his current level, he will quickly become integral to the Celtics both now and in the immediate future.
Outside of becoming the team’s starting four, the only other thing that could cap Williams’ Cinderella season would be him continuing to perform at such a consistent clip and ending his season with a 50/40/90.
You always like to see home-drafted talent earn big roles within the rotation, and in Williams, the Celtics may have found another internally developed skill to add to their long list of success stories.