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Robert Williams continues to stake his claim for more minutes

Robert Williams’ improvements were on full display against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Fluharty-Pool/Getty Images

The Hyperbolic Time Chamber is a fictional location first coined in the cult classic manga series Dragon Ball Z. The premise is that time passes far quicker within the chamber. One human day is equal to a year inside. Goku would spend days locked inside the chamber, training relentlessly to overcome a new foe. Each visit resulted in Goku unlocking a new level of Super-Saiyan.

We often hear about players being in “the lab,” developing new aspects of their game as they look to take things to the next level. While watching Robert Williams continue to display his individual growth against the Memphis Grizzlies, it was a fun thought exercise to think about the Timelord slugging away in the Time Chamber.

However, in Williams’ case, he’s doubled-down on the skill set that was already in place, peeling layers of raw talent away, leaving a more refined version of himself. It is a good thing too, considering Tristan Thompson’s arrival, and the battle for minutes the third-year big man now faces.

The hours spent within the chamber are beginning to bear fruit, and what better way to display your growth than a battle with throwback behemoth Jonas Valančiūnas?

Williams will have better scoring nights, yet his performance in the blowout victory against the Memphis Grizzlies was indicative of the player he can become. It all starts on the floor’s defensive end, where Williams has long been problematic due to his propensity to bite on every pump fake. In seasons past, the Louisiana native would leave his feet at the slightest of twitches from the ball handler, leaving an open lane to the hoop as a result.

However, throughout the early part of this season, Williams has been far more judicious in his approach to swatting shots, allowing him to undertake sound defensive positioning while still deterring interior drives of short mid-range pull ups.

Playing in a shallow style of drop defense, Williams sits atop of the high help line, which provides him with the ability to close out or back peddle, depending on how the offensive possession unfolds. When Desmond Bane receives the ball and begins his drive, Williams first cuts off his route via the middle before shading Bane away from the rim. By defending in this way, Williams has forced the Grizzlies rookie to release the ball with little body protection due to his shot’s angle, making it an easy swat for the Celtics’ most athletic center.

Being able to stay in front of smaller guards and wings makes Williams extremely versatile on defense, and is why so many are high on his defensive upside long term. Alternatively, questions have lingered about the Texas A&M product’s strength in the post, as there are concerns he’s susceptible to being bullied on the low block by more physical bigs. Luckily they don’t come much bigger, stronger, and physical than Valančiūnas, and Williams provided a good account of himself.

Valančiūnas attempts to use his strength in the post against Williams. The Celtics big absorbs the contact, stays active with his hands high, and allows the play to unfold, resulting in a lovely block. Most importantly, he didn’t bite on the spin move either; he stayed on his feet and waited for Valančiūnas to release before elevating. That’s Hyperbolic Time Chamber progress for Timelord.

Granted, Valančiūnas did find success against Williams at some points in the contest, as he went for nine points while matched up with the Celtics back up center. However, the Lord of Time did force two turnovers from the Grizzlies center to go along with his block.

Signs of growth don’t stop on the defensive end. There were signs of neon proportion that Williams is embracing his passing ability - perhaps due to Miami’s Bam Adebayo’s success in a similar role.

Make this type of one-handed catch in the NFL, and you’re earning Odell Beckham Jr.-type money. Do it in the NBA, and it’s just another day in the office. Jokes aside, this was an exceptional assist from Williams, stretching the defense with his vertical spacing, controlling the area around the rim, and reacting to the pass by guiding the ball to Marcus Smart while still in the air.

Elite big-men in the modern NBA all have a short roll game, where they roll after setting a pick and stop just below the free-throw line. Generally, you ask a big to do this to allow a secondary action on the wing, which usually results in a cut. The better centers in the modern era can facilitate out of a short roll and bring their teams more versatile scoring options into the offensive action. That’s precisely what Williams does in the above clip, as he hits a cutting Jaylen Brown with the sweet bounce pass.

Another aspect of short roll offense is a mid-range jumper, which helps keep defenses honest and punishes them if they drop too far into the paint. We didn’t see Williams flash this aspect of his game against the Grizzlies. Still, we know he has it in his bag, and he should look to incorporate that shot into his offense more regularly to open up even more passing opportunities.

Outside of his pogo stick defense, Williams’ rebounding ability has also come in for criticism throughout his young career. Despite having otherworldly athleticism, the 6’8’’ big rarely dominates on the glass. Averaging just 3.8 boards for his career thus far, Timelord seems to be seeing an uptick in his production in this area at this early juncture of the season.

Like defense, Rebounding is about hustle and positioning; having an insane bounce is just a bonus. Against the Grizzlies, Williams went for 10 rebounds (6 defensive, 4 offensive) to take his season average to 5.8 per game.

With Daniel Theis now operating between both the four and five position, there is an increased opportunity for Williams to see the floor more often, and he’s doing everything in his power to prove he deserves the chance.

We’re only two weeks into the NBA season, and Williams is already showing development across every aspect of his game. The only explanation is a stint in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber because it’s clear to everyone watching that his power level is increasing.

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