Grant Williams-Celtics Free Agency Expected to Get off to Surprising Start: Sources

Grant Williams, Boston Celtics restricted free agent

Getty Grant Williams, Boston Celtics restricted free agent

While the move that brought Kristaps Porzingis to Boston on the eve of the NBA draft appeared to herald the shutting down of major new contracts for Celtics players, the door on a possible return of Grant Williams is not closed, according to NBA sources.

The Celtics will have several financial priorities to work out, starting with a supermax extension offer for Jaylen Brown and an extension for Porzingis. Those deals could make it very difficult to keep Williams on hand after next season for the Celtics, but sources indicate that the team and Williams will talk about a deal before Williams heads to the open market to find an offer sheet.

The relationship between Williams and the team, while appearing to be strained at times this season, remains good, and the sides have a desire to work together, a source told Heavy Sports.

Williams, the No. 22 pick of the 2019 draft, turned down an extension in the range of four years and $50 million last fall. That makes him a restricted free agent this summer, which allows the Celtics to match any offer he gets. Boston would like to keep him, but re-signing Williams—without moving some other salaries—would put the team’s payroll into the so-called second luxury-tax apron, and bring tough penalties the Celtics want to avoid.

Celtics, Grant Williams Expected to Work Together

Still, the upshot for the Celtics is that Williams and the team could begin negotiations first, and perhaps work together on finding a potential sign-and-trade if it is not financially feasible for the Celtics to keep him. The Celtics could land one or more assets in such an arrangement—at least a trade exception, maybe draft compensation.

That could be important, especially because the relationship between Williams and the team seemed to be fractured late in the year. After playing a key role in the Celtics’ drive to the NBA Finals last year, Williams fluttered out of the Celtics’ rotation at times during the stretch run and into the playoffs. He logged five DNPs in the playoffs and had three other stints in which he played 4:01 or less.

Overall, Williams averaged 8.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 39.5% 3-point shooting, playing solid defense on multiple positions. But it became clear as the season wore on that he was not a favorite of coach Joe Mazzulla.

A report from The Athletic noted that stars Brown and Jayson Tatum went to Mazzulla in early March to call for more playing time for Williams because the two felt Williams would be needed in the playoffs. But Mazzulla did not necessarily heed his stars’ call: his minutes declined from 25.9 per game in the season to 17.7 in the postseason.

Restricted Free Agency Can Lead to Problems

Such glitches, though, won’t be a factor in conversations between Celtics president Brad Stevens and Williams’ camp—one of the perils of restricted free agency is the possibility of animosity arising between the team and the player, especially if the player has difficulty finding a contract offer.

Stevens, for his part, spoke highly of Williams this month.

“Everybody around the league knows that Grant can add value to a winning team,” he said. “We know that we’re big fans of his. And I thought did a lot of good things when he got the opportunity.”





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