This season for the Boston Celtics has been tremendously underwhelming. The team sits right around the .500 mark without many statement wins that give hope to a rabid fan base. They are coming off losses to the Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers on back-to-back nights that bring this team right back to the low point everyone saw before the All-Star break. Time and time again, this team disappoints against weak competition while also not occasionally beating teams with better records. It is the definition of a middling team.
However, in the brutal loss to the Cavaliers, there was an important stat line to focus on that should give the fan base some hope moving forward. Let’s all just enjoy the nice things this season. And that is Robert Williams.
Williams finished the game Wednesday night with 13 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks, and 2 steals. That is just an absurd stat line from the same player we saw last season. His development this year has been a bright spot in a bleak season. It is not just the stats he puts up, but the way he accumulates them over a game. Williams is high-flying and everywhere on the floor impacting both ends of the court, especially on defense.
Over the past fifteen games, Robert Williams ranks 3rd in the league in blocks per game, ranking just behind Myles Turner and possible Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert. His elite shot blocking ability gives the Celtics an anchor down low on the defensive end.
Shot blocking is downright Rob’s best basketball attribute. He flies to the shot any chance he gets when it is down near the restricted area. Both these clips shows his instincts to roam around the paint until he sees a shot going up. Even in the second clip when Williams misplays and leaves his man, he is able to recover and then spike the shot away. The recovery was something that was not there last season which helps disguise the occasional slip up on defense.
Outside of the shot blocking, Williams’ long frame and wingspan creates rebounding and scoring opportunities on offense. The offense by no means runs through the post, but he has developed the discipline to cut and attack the basket when the play is breaking down and his teammates will often find him streaking to the basket for an easy two. This has been his game this season which makes him a much more dependable player: high percentage shots with the rebounding component to extend possessions.
Robert Williams has been learning better positions to be once a shot goes up to put himself in the best spots down low. He instinctively sees it off the rim and gathers it in to continue back up top and start again or he finds himself close to the rim and finishes it off.
Here, Williams first has a good pass to Grant Williams freeing him up for an open shot. After the miss Rob is able to corral the rebound and take on two Cavaliers to put the shot up for the basket in traffic.
The conversation around Robert Williams and the Celtics rotation is when he will start getting starting center minutes. Recently, he has been not starting games but has been finishing games. About a month ago, I wrote a similar article about Williams inserting himself into the starting center conversation after a performance against Denver, and it has only grown from there. Once he is able to carry longer workloads--he’s still nursing a nagging hip injury--Williams should be the starting center for this team. It is only a matter of time.