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Shelden Williams Making No Presumptions

The following post was written before the news of Glen Davis's early return was announced in the Steve Bulpett article. Doc Rivers comments are interesting and just a bit surprising to me. But at the same time, understandable.

Shelden Williams has done an excellent job in the time he has been given on the floor. Still, I'll stand by my piece. Davis brings a different dimension to the team than Williams. There is no doubt that Davis has the more creative game. The question is, is that what Doc Rivers wants and what the Celtics need?

Shelden's game has been a bit of a hybrid between Powe and Davis. Strong rebounding along with a shot blocking dimension to go with an emerging outside shot. And that is a good thing.

That they are on a par shooting,as Doc suggests should fuel the competition for minutes between them. I'm not quite in agreement with Doc on that aspect. But again, Davis has to prove it. Glen has demonstrated more range on his shot thus far.

Saying all that, here is the original piece discussing Shelden's mindset about how he views his own role before the recent comments from Doc. I'm sure he didn't expect the vote of confidence he received from the news.

(In addition, I had deleted a comment I made at the very end of the article about the possibility of using Davis and his base year comp salary and a few expiring contracts to pick up another piece during this season. Yes, base year comp players have been traded in the past. Perhaps that comment would have more validity if Williams becomes all that Doc Rivers wants. I've added that comment back as fuel for discussion.)

It wasn’t that long ago that many people thought that Shelden Williams might make Glen Davis, shall we say…less needed.


But that was way back when the Celtics opened the season with a few convincing wins and were 8-1. Since then they are in a 2-3 stumble. They are playing uneven and largely disappointing basketball, and they are appearing to do it in slow motion at times.

Yes, the 1988 Celtics come to mind. From that year forward, the big three were eventually worn down by less talented teams with their youth, depth, and athleticism. Bird, McHale, and Parish the thought.

I never expected that to happen to this team this season. Maybe it isn’t. But it sure looks like it.

All of a sudden Shelden Williams isn’t getting the playing time he was, maybe because he isn’t as effective as he was. It looks like there is room for Glen Davis after all.

The team needs a boost from somewhere. Youth, strength, energy, and athleticism. Glen Davis has all four.  

Shelden Williams, the man who has benefited from Glen’s absence, has been aware that his time and opportunity has come at the expense of Glen Davis’ of court poor decision making and unfortunate injury. In some ways, it has all been a blessing, hopefully for both players.

Because of that, Shelden Williams has been the unexpected center of media attention many times in the locker room in this young season.

There have been times...if you saw the amount of media in front of his locker…that you thought it must one of the team stars standing there enthralling scribes with the whys and wherefores of the team’s most recent accomplishments and their own.

Instead, Sheldon Williams, former lottery pick, now Celtic veteran minimum pick up, was the player dealing with all the attention. Answering questions largely about his own solid play, his countenance has remained rather inscrutable in the course of these sessions. There is no sense of overt satisfaction nor allowing himself any real contentedness, in light of his continuing success.

Due to his overall NBA experience, has he become a bit jaded or at least skeptical of what his recent success actually means?

You never know what is going to happen. I got a chance and opportunity when someone else got hurt, you know, and for me to make the most of the minutes, I think I’ve done a pretty god job of doing that. So as of right now…what’s in front of me I can’t control.

Without referring to the future directly, he knows that some day Glen Davis will return ready to play.

Whenever that day does come, you know, it’s going to be up to them. It’s out of my control. I can only control things I can control.

The fall had been a hard one for the 26 year old former Duke star. He has gone from college star to the 5th overall draft pick, to traded twice, then obtaining just a minimum contract, albeit with a championship contending team.

Recently Williams played against his first team, the Atlanta Hawks.

In a sidenote, Joe Smith was another talented player who was unable to live up to where he was drafted. In his case, the pressure was enormous as the number one overall pick in 1995. He is now a Hawk.

An interesting post game exchange with Joe Smith, who had a good game against the Celtics, revealed the following…

Weren’t you supposed to be a Celtic?


Aren’t you on the wrong team here?
(More chuckling)

Nah, they went another route. They went another route.

Did they actually make you an offer?

Umm…we talked a little bit this summer. And I think the Rasheed thing went down before anything got too serious.

And you weren’t going to come for the minimum.

Actually that’s what I’m on here.

So you could have been Sheldon Williams.

Pause (chuckling)  Something like that, right?

But that never got further than talking?


So Mr. Smith Goes to Atlanta. The young Hawks needed some veteran experience. The older Celtics needed a shot of youth. While Joe Smith is a far more accomplished NBA player and has extensive playoff experience, it makes sense.

The Celtic need for youthful energy looks even more acute now.

Even in the second half of the recent halcyon days of 8-1, the Celtics weren’t looking that fearsome. A two point win against a weak Timberwolves team, followed by their first loss to the surprising Suns, then a warning sign 10 point win against the equally bad Nets, was followed by a deceptively unimpressive 19 point over the Jazz.  Three troubling wins and a loss.

Add to that the last 5 games and Celtics seem far older, and far less energetic than anyone thought would be possible in the beginning of the season.

Shelden Williams’ minutes are taking a hit along the way.

Averaging 15 minutes a game, his minutes have dropped considerably in the last two games, to just 7 plus and 9 plus minutes.  He did miss some assignments on the defensive end against the Knicks. He also had no rebounds, a turnover, and just 2 points in the 9 minutes. But that wasn't characteristic of his contributions this season.

While stats never tell the whole story, Williams has the highest rebound average per 36 minutes on the team at 10.9 and is 19th in the NBA per 48 minutes.

He is shooting a career high .535% with a career high in foul shooting at 85%, a career high in assists at 1.6 per 36 minutes.

Taller than either the departed Leon Powe or the injured Glen Davis, Williams seems to like contact in the middle. While he is still learning the defensive rotations, he is a space eater. I feel like I’m writing notes on his report card when I say…. Shelden has shown an occasional ability to hit the short jump shot.

He has an acceptable eFG inside of .577% and an on court/off court of +5.7 – good for 4th best on the team, though that stat has to be tempered by the fact that he is almost always on court against the other team’s second unit.

A bit undersized for inside play and not a great leaper, I haven’t really seen a ‘go to’ move from him around the hoop, but he manages to do pretty well anyway. On a team that has had a puzzling lack of rebounding, Williams gives them that skill.

Yet, his game is pretty vanilla and the Celtics need someone who can spark this team. Glen Davis has been disciplining his own game to play within certain team confines. But Davis is quicker, more mobile, and has a more creative game. Shelden has a steady predictability emerging in his play.

From diving into the stands or on the ground for loose balls, to stealing the ball from point guards, Davis can provide a spark that Williams can’t. Williams is fundamental and safe. Davis is creative and can stir up the game.

So, while the team was winning, Williams looked like a true competitor for Davis’ minutes. The energy shortage of late makes Davis’ return look far more important than before. Williams is well aware of the situation. Now Doc has given him an additional confidence booster with his recent comments.

He has played very well and no matter what his minutes are, he knows that this team is a good fit for him.

Umm…I think so. I’m playing in a structured style system…and everybody’s doing their roles and uh…issued their roles from day one so…they kind of like… play within themselves.

Expectations are lower here for you. Does that help you so you can do what you do best?

Yeah, pretty much, I mean…for me to just come in here and be me, I haven’t felt like this since I was back on Duke campus. So just come out here and play ball and be me…it’s a different feeling.

While Shelden won’t allow himself the luxury of thinking he has gained any real foothold to a meaningful role and predictable minutes, for the first time in the NBA he has a chance to show who he really is as a player with the support of his team. As he relates, that is a different feeling and one the Celtics are both the procreators and beneficiaries of.

With so many things finally going right for him, as the new guy, he knows he has things to work on.

Still getting acclimated and adjusted to everything that’s being thrown at me right now. Obviously, the other guys on the team you know, have been around and what to expect. They know how he wants things run and (how) he wants certain plays to happen and all that stuff. So…I think just me getting more comfortable with that…and knowing what…exactly what he wants me to do in certain situations are probably being the biggest things so far right now.

When Glen Davis comes back, Shelden knows he will be a fight for minutes. Doc has actually reversed that and now says that Davis will have to fight for minutes. It should be very interesting to see how it all plays out.

Davis knows the playbook, is ahead of the curve on the defensive schemes and can play both the power forward and center positions. To many, Davis' recent off court incident hasn't helped. Shelden Williams appears to be a low maintenance kind of player, and a quick learner.

In the mean time, Shelden Williams has raised eyebrows with his play, is feeling like he did in college and is making the most of his time for the benefit of the Celtics and himself.

Is Shelden’s career…. rebounding? That would be a double yes.

Final thought: Considering the current pace of Kevin Garnett's recovery, Rasheed Wallace's current inefficiencies, and the emerging game of Shelden Williams, would it be possible that Danny Ainge uses a healthy Davis and expiring contracts as a piece in trade for another player?

I said in the preseason that I thought DA would keep his eyes open for trades and I felt that this team could use another piece. There are enough differences between the two players to keep both. But are there enough similarities to shop for a different piece?

Bonus Link:  via Hardwood Paroxysm  "I’ll say it. I think Shelden Williams is a better player than Glen Davis."

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