Only three games in to the new NBA season, Grant Williams is proving himself to be an invaluable member of the Boston Celtics roster. Two big performances in two nights from the Celtics rookie are quickly helping to erase the pain of Al Horford’s departure. There is a new Swiss Army knife type guy in the Boston, and he is loving every second.
His impact is much like what we have come to expect from Marcus Smart; it won’t easily be found in the box score, but you see winning plays all over the court. Willing to throw his body in front of bigger guys, or make the extra pass - Williams has done it all over the last 48 hours.
For an undersized big, he has handled the physicality of the league exceptionally well at such an early stage in his career.
In the above play, Williams is guarding Mitchell Robinson on the weak-side block, RJ Barrett beats Carsen Edwards at the top of the key and drives diagonally to the rim. Williams has his head on a swivel and begins to close off RJ’s drive, RJ is undeterred and rises for the jam.
Williams gets the emphatic block, but the ball finds its way to the giant Robinson. Brown contests the put back attempt leading to a miss, Williams then pops up to bat the ball out of the paint.
This is a rookie, clearly reading the game far better than what would be expected of him.
Williams is no regular rookie though. Having spent three years at Tennessee, he has entered the league as a mature young player, a player who is already showing an intricate understanding of the game.
He was ubiquitous with everything good the Celtics did well, showing active hands to garner three steals.
Here, Williams is on the weak-side low help line. Showing great positioning to deny a drive or pass while not being too far away from his guy in the corner in case the ball swings out for the three.
Dennis Smith Jr. drives in to the paint in an attempt to collapse the defense, but Williams refuses to be drawn into it. Instead he keeps his positioning while stunting into the paint to add pressure onto the ball handler. This leads to DSJ to attempt a pass which Williams reads and denies, leading to the Celtics attacking on a fast break opportunity.
Just as troublesome for the Knicks on the offensive end, Williams was causing problems with the smart screens he was setting to free up his teammates.
Plays such as this highlight just how polished he is as a screen setter, setting two picks at the top of the three point line. The first screen allows Smart to separate from his defender, Williams instantly sets a secondary screen for Carsen Edwards.
That second pick allows Edwards to curl off of Williams and towards the free-throw line, by the time his defender has done under the screen Smart has already threaded the pass and its an easy jumper for Edwards.
Celtics fans are going to ask for Grant Williams jersey to be retired by Christmas at this rate.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) October 27, 2019
Williams also ended the game with seven points on 3-of-4 shooting, with one of those buckets being a nice baseline drive from the corner in another intelligent play.
Showing an ability to use his body when shielding the ball, while being decisive in what he is going to do, he takes the pass out towards the elbow three, cuts his man off with his first step, and drives right to the hoop.
The bucket in this instance is irrelevant. The decision making and self confidence to execute on the decision is what really catches the eye.
While it wasn’t all sweet sailing for the young big man, there were plenty of positives to take from the game and his performances over the last two games.
That Williams help block on Randle was an example of him taking a good chance for a block. That's not a bad chase like he had a couple of time earlier in the game.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) October 27, 2019
It won’t always be as easy as this for him. The rigors of an NBA season will surely take its toll. These are growing pains all rookies must experience though. The sheer jump in games played will take some adjusting to, too.
Next up is a challenging games against the Milwaukee Bucks, a much sterner challenge than the Knicks. It will be interesting to see how Williams performs in that game. But for now lets enjoy the young rookie who is impacting the game like a veteran.