In the interest of mixing things up a little bit, we’re starting something new here at CelticsBlog for the second half of the 2021-22 NBA season: the CelticsBlog Player of the Week. It’s a weekly award, published on Mondays, highlighting a stand-out player from the previous week’s games. We’ll talk about what made them the choice, go over stats and highlights and pick a signature highlight from that player for each week.
Let’s discuss the ground rules. For the purposes of this segment, you (the reader) and I are simply going to agree to skip the debate over whether Sunday or Monday is the “real” start of a week. This column’s week, such as it is, will start on Monday, and count all games through the end of play on the following Sunday. In this case, that means for our inaugural award, we’re looking at three games from the previous week: Tuesday’s blowout against the Kings, Friday’s let-down against Atlanta and Saturday’s win over the Pelicans.
It also should be noted that “Player of the Week” does not necessarily translate to “Best Player of the Week.” The idea of this award is to highlight difference-makers from the past week’s games, and to be honest, a strict focus on “best” would lead to this award pinballing back and forth between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They’re the team’s star players, and the most important and impactful players on the court even on their worst shooting nights.
Repeatedly writing about those two, while deserved, would be just a little bit less fun. For that reason, we’re going to broaden our standards a little bit to introduce a little more diversity in the results. Ask yourself: who was The Guy last week? That’s the kind of loose criteria we’re going to operate around.
With that in mind, let’s discuss our first winner.
CelticsBlog Player of the Week #1: Robert Williams III
3 GP, 94 MP, 10.6 PPG, 14.3 RPG, 3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 2 BPG, 68% FG%, +53
Apologies to our runners-up, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart, but this week belonged to the Celtics’ 24-year-old starting center, who did a little bit of everything en route to the Celtics’ 2-1 week. The numbers above are basically self-evident; Williams had his fingers in every phase of the game, all week long. He finished at the rim with his trademark efficiency, moved the ball effectively, wreaked havoc on defense and absolutely dominated the glass every minute he was on the court.
As is true for basically the entire Boston roster, the Sacramento game was Williams’ apex this week. A 53-point win tends to do that. Tatum and Brown led the way in terms of scoring, combining for 66 points, but Williams rose to the occasion as the perfect complementary player. His stat line against the Kings really tells the whole story: 13 points, 17 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks, with a team-high +42. He was simply operating on a higher level than Sacramento’s frontcourt was capable of dealing with.
If the Sacramento game was the universal apex for the Celtics’ roster this week, then the Atlanta game was certainly the nadir. Very little went right for anybody as the Celtics collectively shot just 35% from the field en route to a mere 92 points against the surging Hawks. There aren’t many positives to take from this one, if we’re being honest, but Williams did post one of the better stat lines of any Celtic on the evening, with a double-double and four offensive rebounds. With games like that one, we just have to take what we can get.
Finally, Williams capped off his week by absolutely manhandling the New Orleans Pelicans on both ends of the floor. It wasn’t his highest-usage offensive game, but for the third time of the week, he completely dominated the glass and served as a serious defensive deterrent in the paint. Not that it should be surprising, but his stat line was yet another Rob Special: 8 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks.
This time around, the blocks were the signature aspect of Williams’ game against New Orleans. The Pelicans showed up to play on Saturday night, giving a respectably chippy performance despite their youth and shorthanded roster and stubbornly refusing to let the game ever slip into blowout territory. This continued very late into the fourth quarter, as they continued to try and claw back within single digits. It was an effort worthy of respect, but also one that was almost single-handedly shut down by Williams after a pair of incredibly timely blocks just 30 seconds apart in the closing minutes of the game.
Highlight of the Week
As the Celtic with arguably the most aesthetically pleasing style of play, there is never really a shortage of Robert Williams highlights to sort through. Relative to their importance in the game itself, either of those blocks against New Orleans could certainly qualify, as could a number of his trademark thunderous finishes at the rim (of which there are always many to choose from).
That said, I continue to be incredibly drawn to this specific pass in Tuesday’s win over Sacramento. Williams sets up for a screen on Tyrese Haliburton, but then slips and catches the ensuing pass from Tatum in a quick short-roll situation. From there, without a second’s hesitation, he rotates to his left and delivers a perfectly-timed pass to Al Horford, wide open for the corner three.
Ball movement was the key to Boston’s demolition of the Kings, and Williams was a crucial cog in the Celtics’ offensive machine. It just feels as though, at this stage, Williams is legitimately one of the best passing bigs in the NBA, and it’s a weapon that very well might be just as valuable as his transcendent ability to finish at the rim. He’s an instinctual passer with lightning-fast processing speed, both in pick-and-roll situations and after grabbing his customarily frequent offensive rebounds, and the Boston offense is so much more dynamic when he is involved as an offensive hub.
On that note, that will do it for our first installment of CelticsBlog’s Player of the Week! It’s a deserving win for Robert Williams, who has really been coming into his own over the past couple months of play, and just felt like the natural choice to kick off this new series.
Now, though, the question becomes: who’s up next? The Celtics have a bit busier time ahead of them this coming week, with four games on the slate: home games against Miami and Charlotte on Monday and Wednesday, and road trips to Detroit and Orlando on Friday and Sunday. Give us your predictions in the comments, and we’ll be back next Monday with the next recipient.