It’s an outrage that Grant Williams was not cast as the Many-Faced God on Game of Thrones. Since coming into the league, he has shown a willingness to add aspects to his game whilst improving on the what he already did. There have been growing pains that are to be expected of any rookie. Not even LeBron James had a linear developmental path.
Williams is cementing his place within the rotation. He has done so in large part to his defensive play and high basketball IQ. According to Basketball-Reference, Williams is averaging 15.3 minutes per game with a shade over 50 percent of his minutes sitting in the 10-19 range.
Much was made of his perceived inability to hit the three coming into the season, made worse by him going 0-25 to start the season. It’s tough to bring your percentages up to a respectable number after that when you’re only averaging 1.3 attempts per game, but that shot is slowly becoming respectable. Against the Hawks, he went 0-for-2, but ultimately, he did his damage down low.
Instead of making his way to the corners, he found himself positioned on the low block numerous times. Having spent the lions share of his time at Tennessee operating as a post-up player, it should come as no surprise that he thrived when receiving the ball down low.
Making good use of his body, Williams is able to keep the defender on his hips as the pivot occurs, allowing him to muscle his way into scoring angles. His strength is impressive for his age, which allowed him to bully his way down low against the Hawks’ young roster. Just look at his last two games where he has totaled nine rebounds, with six of them being on the offensive end, with the right decision being made with regularity.
Spending more than half of his young NBA career at the 4, we have yet to see an ability to put the ball on the floor from him, until now. His pump-fake drive from the top of the break in the fourth was as encouraging as it was beautiful.
Grant has been showing all-around growth throughout the first half of the season, spending time at the three, four, and five which highlights his versatility and growing importance to the team.
Brad Stevens does not give minutes to those who are undeserving. At times, he’s been criticized for not providing enough minutes to the younger players, but not with Williams. Grant has made the most of his chance just like Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum before him. He’s had tough competition from Semi Ojeleye and the rotational bigs coming into the year, but regardless of who has been healthy, Grant has found himself getting minutes more often that not. This is mainly due to his defensive ability which is outstanding for his age but has also allowed him the opportunity to refine his offensive skill set on the fly.
Those improvements on offense along with the defense he provides has seen the team improve when he is on the floor. They’re +10.5 per 100 possessions and +4.5 points better than when he is on the bench. Clearly, as his offense is only just starting to bloom, it’s defense where the impact is being made. Synergy has him ranking among the best in the league in multiple categories:
Grant Williams is in the 80th percentile when guarding the roll man. Holding them to 0.7 points-per-possession over 81 possessions.— Adam Taylor (@AdamTaylorNBA) February 3, 2020
Ranking in the top thirty percent of the league when guarding spot-up shooters, rolling big men and guys going ISO’s, Williams is making life hard for his opponents. It doesn’t stop there either as he is among the league’s elite when guarding guys off the catch-and-shoot, ranking in the top nine percent. His lateral quickness has made him a nightmare for teams who like to run a perimeter-centric offense, holding three-point shooters to 29-of-103 shooting.
Overall, his performance against Atlanta was his most complete yet. He ended the game with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, 6 rebounds, and two assists. His impressive performance even impressed CelticsBlog’s Keith Smith so much it left him beyond words at one point.
Damn Grant Williams. Wow!— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) February 4, 2020
With Brad shortening his rotations as the All-Star break draws near, performances like these are what will provided Williams with an opportunity to stake his claim for when the playoffs roll around. He isn’t a finished product by any means, but his growth has been as encouraging as it is impressive.