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Midseason progress report: Grant Williams

Grant Williams may not be a star in the making, but he has all the hallmarks of a high-level role player who will enjoy a long and prosperous pro career.

Boston Celtics v Houston Rockets Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

“Geek Freak.” What a nickname to earn in the first six months in the league. It suits Grant William though. He’s always talking to the cameras. There were rumors of game nights with the other rookies shortly after being drafted and he has a self-proclaimed love of super-heroes. Grant Williams quickly talked his way into the hearts of Boston fans; his play on the court is cementing him there.

Jumping from college to the pros is never an easy task, especially for players outside of the lottery. The game moves faster. Players are bigger, stronger, trickier. Almost all of these players come into the league having been “the man” throughout their young careers, making the adjustment even harder to navigate. None of this seems to have phased Williams though. His demeanor indicates this is all part of the journey for him and he’s loving every moment of it.

Imagine coming into the pros and bricking your first 25 shots from deep. The mental effects of that could destroy an ordinary player’s self confidence. Williams maintained confidence in his own abilities and continued to plug away, finding success on his 26th attempt. The reaction from the entire team was one of joy. They truly embrace Williams for who he is, quirks and all.

That is Williams the man and the geek, but what about the player?

For starters, he brings a basketball IQ well beyond his years, understanding his position and what’s required of him on each possession. Developing these nuances provides a solid foundation on both ends of the floor, most notably defense. Since entering the league, he has increased Boston’s expected win totals by 8 games according to Cleaning the Glass.

When on defense he is ranked in the 80th percentile for increase in turnovers forced while also ranking in the 74th percentile for decrease in opponents field goal percentage. Frankly, he is impacting games on the defensive end regularly, making it no surprise he’s seeing an average of 15.6 minutes per game.

Synergy analytics help enlighten us even further, displaying Williams as a “very good” spot-up defender. Holding his man to just 29.9 percent on 26 of 87 field goal attempts, it ranks him in the 80th percentile league wide. He’s defending the ball handler coming off a pick-and-role in a very similar fashion, restricting the ball handlers success to just 33.8 percent.

Offensively it’s taken a while longer for him to find his rhythm and only recently has he begun to show the offensive talent he displayed during his time at Tennessee. In college, he functioned as a back-to-the-basket type of player. In Boston, he’s an undersized big and his role is further out on the perimeter. This is evidence by his 91st percentile shot frequency from the corner three, taking 18 percent of his shots from those spots.

Improvements-wise, there are some reoccurring issues that need addressing during the summer. That start’s with over-helping. While he’s improving in this aspect, he regularly loses his man by either stunting too hard or opting to blitz when there is little need to do so. It’s providing offenses easy buckets in the paint, hanging his teammates out to dry in the process.

Adding strength would be a solid secondary improvement for Williams to make, as it would benefit his game on both ends. Stronger legs would enable him to add more range and arc to his deep ball along with strengthening his ability when guarding the post. That’s been something of a problem for him this year.. Synergy is tracking him as allowing 63.6 percent when offenses post him up, which is surprising given his frame. Building lower body strength will enable him to dig into his man more, which in turn limits how often he is bullied into the post players favored spots.

Williams may not be a star in the making, but he has all the hallmarks of a high-level role player who will enjoy a long and prosperous career at this level if he remains true to himself. His intangibles and intellect are where his value is truly felt, making the right plays and putting the teams needs ahead of his own. Those are the traits coaches love; they earn you playing time, and that time on the court is how you improve.

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