Better late than never: the CelticsBlog Player of the Week is back. After circumstances required a week off last week, we’ve now got two full weeks of Boston Celtics basketball to catch up on. That entails a total of seven games: the November 2 overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and six subsequent wins against Chicago, New York, Memphis, Detroit (twice) and Denver. We’ll be lumping these weeks together as one, because I think that offers some more fun options for us to discuss here.
Let’s not waste any time and jump right into it. This is a fun one.
It’s finally time for Jayson Tatum to sit this one out, but that’s not in any way due to his performance on the court. The Celtics’ superstar forward continued his torrid start to the season, averaging 31.6 points per game during the 6-1 stretch. He’s the rising tide that lifts all ships on this roster, and it’s all but certain that his name is going to pop up in here each week if this is the level of play we’re going to continue to see from him.
Elsewhere, it feels like a good time to give Al Horford his first shout-out in this space. He sat out two games for rest purposes (the New York and Detroit wins), but averaged 14.6 points per game on blistering 63% shooting from the field in his five appearances, while remaining his customarily steady self defensively. Marcus Smart also warrants a mention, as the owner of four(!) games with double-digit assists in his past five outings.
That said, I think we can all agree that it’s time to give the role players some shine. And for that reason...
CelticsBlog (Co-)Player(s) of the Week(s) #3 and #4: Sam Hauser and Grant Williams
Hauser: 7 GP, 19 MPG, 9.1 PPG, 49% FG, 41% 3PT, +43
Williams: 7 GP, 30 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 56% FG, 40% 3PT, 5 REB, 2 AST, +58
That’s right, it’s a flat-out pair of flamethrowers for us this week. Two of the team’s best three-point shooters, percentage-wise (Horford being the third), will be sharing the award this time out. The two-week window benefits both players here; I’m not sure either completely stand out within the context of either individual week, but as a whole, I think it’s hard to tell the story of this win streak without spending quite a bit of time discussing their play.
We can start with Hauser, because the summary is pretty simple: the guy can just flat-out shoot. After missing out on the Max Struses of the world for years now, the Celtics finally found their diamond-in-the-rough three-point specialist. Hauser may well be the most gifted shooter on the roster at the moment, with a lightning-quick release that makes him a threat to unleash from behind the arc at a moment’s notice. He’s coming into his own, and he’s making defenses pay.
As a low-usage offensive threat, there are always going to be games where Hauser disappears into the background of the offense. But when his number’s been called, he’s delivered. In the Celtics’ record-breaking win over the Knicks, he set a new career-high with 17 points (five made threes). That mark lasted a whole four days, before he went for 24 (six threes) in the blowout win over Detroit.
Hauser has done everything the Celtics have asked of him and more. Kudos to the kid for a stellar start to the season — he’s easily been one of the brightest spots for this team thus far.
On the flip side, we have Grant Williams, who is out to prove himself in a different way than the undrafted Hauser. After talks of a contract extension stagnated this offseason, Williams entered this year playing for his next contract. All he’s done since then is play the best basketball of his NBA career, averaging career highs in just about everything.
Williams saw himself promoted to the starting lineup these past two weeks, taking the place of Derrick White as the team’s nominal Robert Williams III replacement in the starting five. It’s been a snug fit. He’s added size and strength to the starting group without taking away from its versatility, and the ability to deploy White off the bench has proven to be a boon with Malcolm Brogdon sidelined due to injury for the time being.
His 50% shooting mark from behind the three-point arc is going to draw deserved attention, but it’s the way Williams has diversified his his offensive game that has landed him in this spot. No longer a one-dimensional “three-and-D” threat, Williams is putting the ball on the floor with shocking aplomb. Look at this!
This isn’t a case of contract-year showboating, either. The added wrinkles to Williams’ game have come entirely within the context of what the Celtics are trying to do offensively. He’s always been a gap-filler on this roster; an offensive safety valve and a Swiss Army Knife defender. But instead of merely capitalizing on the advantages created by others, Williams is starting to create opportunities on his own.
The passing is a particularly fun wrinkle. He recorded four assists in each of the Celtics’ last two games of the most recent week, tying his career-high mark for a single game in both outings. For a player that hasn’t been asked to hold very much playmaking responsibility, this kind of heads-up awareness and purposeful ball movement is a promising sign. Watch his line of sight here as he catches the defense helping off of Tatum — it’s like a quarterback looking off a defensive back.
A two-point game might be an odd flex for a column like this, but Williams’ performance in the win against Memphis also strikes me as noteworthy. Two points on zero shot attempts in 38 minutes played, but he snagged a couple offensive rebounds, blocked a shot, grabbed a steal and finished as a +6 in a three-point Boston win. To me, that paints a picture of a player more concerned with playing winning basketball than piling up individual stats, even in the circumstances of his contract situation.
That contract situation could very well be the Celtics’ problem soon. If Grant Williams keeps playing this way, his reported $14 million per season asking price might just have been a bargain. In the meantime, the 24-year-old forward is playing a critical role for the hottest team in the Association right now.
Next up, it’s a three-game week for the Celtics. They hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night — a 126-122 win — and will proceed to hit the road for away games against the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans. Which Celtic do you think we’ll be discussing here this time next week? As always, give us your thoughts down in the comments.