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Grant Williams could be the next Mikal Bridges

Grant Williams’ incredible 20-point performance against the Bulls showcased some major offensive improvements.

Boston Celtics v Phoenix Suns Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

We thought we knew what we were getting with Grant Williams when we drafted him at #22. Like most three-year college players, he wasn’t expected to progress or develop in a way that would warrant a lottery pick, despite his illustrious college career. The top half of the first round is often reserved for upside and potential with the backend featuring more polished known commodities.

However, Grant has improved key parts of his game in each of his four seasons as a Celtic, and he’s made himself into an incredibly valuable piece to any championship-level team. In his first two years, he drastically improved his 3-point shooting from 25% in 2019 to 37% in 2020 and then 42% in 2021. This allowed him to space the floor and give the Jays more room to work offensively, and it also gave him the money-making tagline of being a “3-and-D” player.

This season, Grant Williams is expanding even beyond that archetype. He’s showing an improved ability to make quick decisions on the perimeter; he can make the extra pass accurately, but he can also drive close-outs and finish at the rim with both hands. Now that defenders not only respect but fear his three-point shot, they’re flying out at him and forcing him off the arc, which allows him to showcase new and exciting parts to his game. Monday’s revenge game against the Bulls was probably the best illustration of these improvements to Grant’s offensive arsenal.

After missing a floater and a pull-up three, Grant consciously made an effort to attack. “I feel like I’ll continually improve, not only year after year, but night after night, just continuing to understand spacing, understand driving angles, understand how people are guarding you,” Grant Williams said after scoring a season-high 20 points. “I feel like at the beginning of the game, I didn’t make a couple of shots, and I decided to see something go in, be aggressive, continue to go downhill, be physical.”

Here, Alex Caruso aggressively closes out to Grant, which allows him to attack on a straight line to the rim. He uses his strength to fend off a really strong defender in Caruso, and then he finishes with contact over Nikola Vucevic (I’m not gonna act like Vuc is the best rim protector, but it’s still a nice finish from Batman). I love the way he takes advantage of his three-point shooting threat by wasting no time and just ripping right to the hoop. He doesn’t sit there and think — he just goes.

I honestly didn’t think Grant Williams had this in his bag. The low pickup into the lefty finish over Andre Drummond, all while Caruso is riding his right side… Wow, Grant. What has gotten into you? The more confidence that Grant gets as a driver, the more we will begin to see these college flashes of him at Tennessee. Don’t forget, Williams averaged 15.7 points per game during his three years as a Volunteer and he was the focal point of their offense.

I don’t expect too many Grant Williams post ups moving forward, but that’s only because the Celtics have so many offensive weapons besides him. If a team like the Hornets, Wizards, Rockets, or Thunder (and I could go on) were to acquire him, they would probably make Grant Williams post ups a regular feature of their offense. He’s too quick for most big men in the league, but he’s far too strong for other players at his height or smaller.

Poor man’s Mikal Bridges

If I had to guess, Grant Williams is going to continue to make improvements in his game, and I could imagine him having a Mikal Bridges-esque career arc. As Bridges became a better shooter, he got chased off the three-point line at a higher rate, which opened up other parts of his game. Bridges, another three-year player in college, has become a mid-range threat, as well as an excellent cutter, and I think that might be what Grant Williams adds to his game in the future.

The point is that, unlike what many thought, Grant Williams just keeps getting better. And, in my opinion, the Celtics absolutely need to pay him this offseason. Any championship team needs a few (preferably more) big and strong wings that can guard multiple positions, do the little things, shoot the three, and be connectors on both ends. These players don’t need to create off the dribble, and they don’t have to be big-time scorers, but they need to fill in the gaps of the rest of the guys. This is Mikal Bridges. This is Grant Williams. We need to pay him!

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