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Scout’s View: Grant Williams

Williams’ improved shot has scouts believing he can stick around long-term

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game Two Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Over the coming weeks here at CelticsBlog, we’re going to a run a series we’re calling Scout’s View. Each edition of Scout’s View will focus on a different player. CelticsBlog talked to eight current and former NBA scouts to get their opinions on various Boston players. Included will be quotes from scouts on those players’ offensive and defensive skills. As well as some final, overall thoughts on the player. Next up in the series is Grant Williams.

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game Five Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images


Western Conference Scout 1: “A large number of Celtics fans hate this guy, right? (Note: Answered that Williams gets a good deal of hate on social media) I don’t get that. Is he great? No. Is he going to be an All-Star? No. Is he fine as your fourth big and 10th man in your rotation? Yes.

“He got up to 37% from deep. He’s a pretty good passer. And he’s shown he can score in the post on smaller guys. I’ll take that from my fourth big any way of the week.”

Former Scout 1: “I have this feeling those Draymond Green comps sunk Grant Williams before he even played a game. Green is an all-time ballhandler and passer for a big. He runs the Warriors offense.

“Williams can shoot it. He did that better last year than his first year. He’s better than Green in that respect. He’s a pretty good passer. He’ll pick up some stuff from Al Horford there. But he’s not the ballhandler Green is. He’s not as quick as Green is. And he doesn’t have Green’s strength or length.”

Eastern Conference Scout 1: “He’s not a guy we build a gameplan around. He’s not someone you worry about when he comes in a game as far as making sure you account for him on every trip. But he can shoot it. If you leave him open, he’s can hurt you. Brad (Stevens) never took advantage of his ability to score on smalls by getting him inside. If Ime (Udoka) does that, I think people will like him more.”

Eastern Conference Scout 2: “He’s fine as your 12th-to-15th guy. He’ll never hurt you if that is his role. He stays ready. He can do just enough offensively to be fine. But if you need him to play 25-30 minutes a night or, God forbid start, you’re in trouble. That’s when teams will expose him. Put it this way…If you lose because Grant Williams hit a bunch of threes and scored a bunch inside, you tip your hat and move on.”

Eastern Conference Scout 3: “He’s fine offensively. Just good enough to play to take advantage of his defensive ability.”

Independent Analyst: “This is all about reframing expectations for me. He was a late-first round pick. He was asked to play a very different role in the NBA than in college. At Tennessee, the Vols ran a lot of the offense through Grant. He was a primary decision-maker and that’s where the Draymond Green comparisons started.

“The Celtics have asked him to be a standstill jump-shooter. He was terrible at that as a rookie. Didn’t he miss like his first 20-something three-pointers? (Note: It was 25 straight missed three-pointers to start Williams’ career) He had no idea how to play off other guys and it showed. Last year? He figured that out. 37.2% is pretty good.”

“I bet after a year with Al Horford, Grant will figure out some great passing stuff, and two or three off-the-dribble moves to get to the basket. Grant’s biggest challenge right now is that he’s not overly quick and he doesn’t have the length of Green or Horford. So, he’ll never be a great finisher inside.”

Western Conference Scout 2: “I’m a broken record here, but his best attribute is that he fits in perfectly with (Jayson) Tatum and (Jaylen) Brown. He became a dangerous spot-up shooter. He’s a pretty good screener. You can drop on him on DHO (dribble hand-off) plays, because he’s not going to take a pullup of any sort. And if he does drive, he’s not big enough to worry about at the rim. But you can’t just leave him wide-open anymore.

“I think him and Robert Williams will both benefit a lot from having Al Horford back there. They are both good passers now, but a year or two with Horford will really unlock that skill for them. Horford is one of the better passing bigs we have in the game.”

Former Scout 2: “If he was a guard, we’d all say ‘He’s a streak shooter’, but for some reason, bigs aren’t allowed to get that qualifier attached to them. They get labeled as inconsistent or bad shooters. But 37% from behind the arc is pretty good. It’s not like he was going 10-for-10 one night and 0-for-10 the next. The volume isn’t big enough for those kinds of swings.

“I’d like to see him get back to being the assertive guy he was in college. Drive hard. Use that big body to create space to get shots off. But I spent three years waiting for that from (Semi) Ojeleye and it never happened either.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports


Eastern Conference Scout 1: “The game for me was against Denver when Grant came in and shut down Nikola Jokic. And he’s done enough other good defending that I don’t think that was a one-hit-wonder either. He’s a matchup guy. If you have a big on the other side who is stepping out and can drive, get Grant out of there. He’s not quick enough for that. If it’s a big who likes to bang, but isn’t jumping over the top, Grant is perfect for that matchup.”

Former Scout 1: “This is another place where the Draymond Green comps kill him. Green is one of the best defensive players the league has ever seen. When he came in, he could truly defend 1-5. That’s a pretty small list of guys that could ever really do that. But Green is quick, he’s strong and he’s incredibly long. Grant isn’t any of those things.

“Now, put that Green stuff away and judge him for what he is. Then, you have a kid who can defend most fives at a decent rate and some of the slower fours. Sure, (Joel) Embiid is gonna kill him at the 5. Giannis (Antetokounmpo) will destroy him at the 4. But guess what? Those guys destroy everyone. Give the kid 10-15 minutes a night and you’re fine on defense.”

Western Conference Scout 1: “We used his tape against Nikola Jokic to show our bigs how to get to Jokic. He stayed connect, got underneath Jokic and bothered the crap out of him. The problem is Boston only plays Denver twice, unless they both get to the Finals. But there are a few other Jokic-ish bigs in the league that Grant can defend. That’s what his role needs to be.”

Former Scout 2: “I don’t see it. He’s not quick. He doesn’t use his strength and weight well. He can’t jump and he’s not super long. The best thing he does is take charges. If you wanted to play for Brad (Stevens), you have to take charges as a big. It’ll be the same under Ime Udoka. At least Williams understands that part.”

Eastern Conference Scout 2: “This is where he’s maybe a little bit better than 12th-to-15th guy on the roster. He’s got certain matchups where he can be effective on defense. Put him on a 5 that isn’t overwhelming fast or huge and Williams will do well. We’ve seen it against guys like (Nikola) Jokic. But that’s a specific kind of matchup and that’s why he’s not a nightly rotation guy for me.”

Western Conference Scout 2: “I’m mixed here. He’s fine as a positional defender. He’ll take charges or get in the way enough to bother drives. He’s not a help-side shot-blocker. He’s not great on switches. Quick guys blow right by him. Big guys go over the top of him.

“Being in the right place on defense is a huge part of things. Doing something when you get to that right place is pretty important too. Will he do that? I don’t know.”

Eastern Conference Scout 3: “This is where I think he earns playing time. This kid just gets it. He’s in the right spot on almost every play. I’d like to see him go one way or the other. Lose some weight and get quicker. Or bulk up and beat guys up. Right now, he’s kind of stuck in the middle. But he’s got the smarts to be an excellent defender. He also understands the schemes and communicates well.

“On that last part…That’s what sets Grant apart from Robert Williams. Robert Williams still does everything on instinct on defense. And, damn, those instincts and those athletic abilities are incredible. Grant doesn’t have those gifts. So, he has to be smarter than the other guys. And usually he is. If you could combine those two guys, you’d have a dominant All-Star big.”

Independent Analyst: “Again, let’s reframe our expectations here. In college, Grant was a good shot-blocker and picked up a bunch of steals. That’s because he was big and quick enough. At the NBA level, he’s a little bit too small and not quite quick enough.

“It also killed his comparisons because everyone thought of him compared to Brandon Clarke. Clarke was awesome as a rookie. Then you know what happened? He was a terrible sophomore. Grant started slow, found his groove and then became an alright rotation guy as a sophomore. This one isn’t over yet.”

NBA: Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Overall Thoughts

Eastern Conference Scout 1: “He’s behind Robert Williams and Al Horford in the Celtics big rotation. He might even be behind Enes Kanter in some matchups. So, he’s the fourth big? That’s fine. Grant’s challenge is going to be making enough shots that Brad Stevens doesn’t need to keep Jabari Parker around. That’s his rotation competition.

“The Celtics aren’t going to play four bigs very often, because they usually play one at a time. I don’t think that will change much under Ime Udoka. That means Grant has to take advantage whenever he gets his shot. Not just be passable, but actually be good. Force Udoka to play him.”

Eastern Conference Scout 2: “He’s the fourth big on a team that will probably play two or three bigs. That’s fine. It’ll take a little pressure off him maybe. Third year is a little rough to spend time in the G-League as a former first-rounder, but maybe a week or two in Maine would be good for him. He’d dominate there and come back with a ton of confidence.”

Eastern Conference Scout 3: “I feel like he’s better than what he’s shown. He’s clearly a really smart kid and sometimes those guys get in their heads too much. If he misses a few shots, you can see him thinking his way through it. Then he’s off his game on defense too.

“Defense first for him. Focus there and let the rest come. All he really needs to do on offense is screen, move the ball and hit open jumpers. I believe he can do that.”

Western Conference Scout 1: “I bet he gets traded somewhere and blossoms with more playing time. Then we’ll all wonder if it was real or just good stats on a bad team. Such is life as an undersized big. But I think this kid can play. He’s a good shooter. He gets how the schemes work on both ends. He’s a rotation guy for a good team.”

Western Conference Scout 2: “This is a huge year for Grant Williams, but he’s sort of stuck behind some good players. I don’t trust Robert Williams to stay healthy and Al Horford isn’t playing more than 60-65 games probably. When Ime Udoka calls Grant Williams’ number, he has to make him keep calling it. Otherwise, he becomes a semi-intriguing piece of salary-matching in a trade.”

Former Scout 1: “I see people want him waived or for his option to not be picked up. That’s stupidity. 37% from three for a big who can defend? Yeah, I’ll take that every day. He’s never a starter, but as your third or fourth big, you can do a whole lot worse.

Former Scout 2: “Boston is going to need him. (Al) Horford isn’t playing 30 minutes a night and will probably top out at 65-70 games. Robert Williams is awesome. Like ridiculously awesome. But let me know when he plays more than 20 minutes a night over even 60+ games.

“That means Grant Williams, and Enes Kanter, are going to play regularly. We know what Kanter is and what he isn’t. If Williams can do a little bit more offensively, and I think it’s in there somewhere, then he’s fine. If not, Boston will need to address backup bigs at the deadline.”

Independent Analyst: “He’s never going to be Draymond Green, but he can still be better than Brandon Clarke. That’s the player we should focus against. Clarke has had more minutes and a more consistent role, but he slid back in Year 2. Year 3 is huge for both of these guys. Right now, because of his shooting, I’m leaning just slightly towards Grant Williams carving out a long-term rotation role over Clarke keeping the one he was handed as a rookie.”

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