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Keeping Grant Williams

The Celtics utility man has become a topic of discussion as trade season heats up.

Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Yesterday, CelticsBlog’s Keith Smith reported on the noise that Grant Williams may have played his final game with the Celtics:

One source told CelticsBlog that Boston is wary about what Williams wants moving forward, both in terms of a new deal and a bigger role:

“Grant wants a lot of money. We heard he thinks he’s got $18 to $20 million waiting for him in free agency. And he wants to play more, probably start. Not sure either one of those happen with Boston.”

Keith goes on to say that every player wants a bigger role. That’s surely been a motivating factor in his improvement, particularly over the last two seasons, and why he reportedly didn’t sign an extension last summer in order to bet on himself in a contract year. Grant wants more because he should.

However, after a breakout season last year and a strong showing in the playoffs, Williams has been seeming stuck in neutral. He’s up in most counting stats in Year 4 averaging 8.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.6 assists and still shooting a robust 41.4% from behind the arc. He’s added different elements to his game that weren’t really there last season like attacking closeouts off the dribble and attacking the rim. At the close of 2022, CelticsBlog’s Adam Taylor wrote that Williams was playing himself into a big payday next summer.

But with a day left before the deadline, that narrative has changed. In January, he shot just 41% from the field and he’s a minus-43 over his last five games. This tough stretch has possibly stoked whatever fires were generating this trade smoke, but to be fair, these are the ups and downs of most role players in this league and to reiterate Keith’s point, Grant is a really good role player.

Consider what he’s done against the East’s bests this season. In ten games against the 76ers, Bucks, Nets, Cavaliers, and Heat, he’s averaging a cool 10.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.4 assists and hitting 23-of-45 from 3. And just like he was last season, he’s still a roadblock of a defender against bigger bigs and can hold his own on the perimeter. More importantly, he’s a +58 against the five playoff teams in the conference, so while an 0-for-2 no-show against the visiting Suns or some choice words to a referee could earn him a technical, Williams is still an absolutely integral part of Boston’s success — maybe not now in the doldrums of the regular season heading into All-Star break, but certainly when it’s go-time come the playoffs.

There's sound financial logic in dealing Williams before good restricted free agency in July. If you can find a comparable player with another year left on his rookie contract and then hedge your bet with a buyout big and/or a wing to fill the Schroeder TPE, President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens would have helped his team on the floor this season and in the books for next.

And while sentimentality has no place in the business of basketball, I'm keeping Grant for this stretch run. He's not the best player of this core of Celtics that were drafted by the franchise, but he's arguably made the biggest transformation from college to pros in order to fit in a role around Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Robert Williams. He's earned the right to make this run and if down the road he's worth more to another team or he wants to stick around on a hometown discount, that's his call.

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