What’s the old saying? The rich get richer? That’s what appears to have happened for the Celtics this past Thursday at the 2018 NBA Draft. Big names fell to where most mock draft boards had them going, but perhaps no bigger name (or shoes) in the draft felt more like a steal than the 6’10″ 240lb Texas A&M center Robert Williams III. Falling all the way to #27, Brad Stevens commented:
”Each pick we were hoping more and more he would be available at 27 .. The ability to block shots, the ability to alter shots, the quickness to catch up to guards shooting if they get a step and still be able to alter that … and then, if you can have four shooters on the floor and a guy like that rolling to the rim, you can just throw it up in the air and he can go and get it and finish.”
Pretty much nailed it, and high praise for sure. The kid seems like he could fit the mold of a DeAndre Jordan or a poor man’s Dwight Howard (the good one) at best. At worst, he could resemble a Stromile Swift or Joakim Noah. For now, save your money on that Williams III jersey. The defense is elite from this guy, but he could use some work offensively, though. Let’s button down some projections and outlooks for the newest member of the Boston Celtics, Robert Williams III.
A Numbers Game
With 2017-2018 behind us, Boston looks to recharge from an ECF exit. How do you add more electricity to an already supercharged team? You go to Texas and find Robert Williams III. Remember when you had that Nerf hoop and would put all your friends on posters? That’s pretty much what he does with any open look at the rim. RWIII has a wingspan of 7’6”, rivaling fellow draftee Mo Bamba of the Orlando Magic, who measured a record 7’10”. To put it in NBA perspective, Rudy Gobert measured at 7’9”, which was the best in the league before Bamba. Williams III averaged four blocks per 40/min, which is incredible. Gobert is one of the best defenders in the NBA because of the measurement, and it’s an important one for Williams game too.
A smidge undersized for a center height-wise, Williams III’s 240 pounds of physical nature and bully-ball frame will be what gets him off the pine for Stevens if not for his at-the-rim athleticism. Not only does RWIII excel in transition, he’s a solid rebounder that pursues the ball well. With his length and frame he’s often bigger than his opponents, though adding some muscle and establishing a good footwork regimen could help this young spark plug establish a more dominant foundation down low. Don’t sleep on his blocking ability either. With reach like his and being a shot hunter, don’t expect any easy buckets when taking it to the hole.
Lob City 2.0? Possibly! Throw the ball anywhere near the hoop and Williams III will catch it and hurt your feelings. His added energy and try-hard attitude is exactly what Boston needs at the five spot. Baynes gets dunked on while Williams does the dunking. Monroe was serviceable, but he’s past his peak and could be gone sooner than later. Al Horford is where you get what you can’t teach, leadership. Theis will be back as well which could slide Al to his natural four spot, and falling into a mentor role wonderfully. Williams would be the second wind Horford desperately needs as his career winds down.
Adding someone like RWIII to the already #1 defensive team in the NBA seems unfair, and having him being able to throw it down from anywhere seems inhuman. He could be something special in a year or two, but he’s young, and college isn’t the NBA. Rim protector? 100%, as he did win the SEC DPOY his two years of college. Offensively, however, is where RWIII could spend some time on the farm.
Lately, DA’s been right on the money when drafting young talent. Someone who would make any AAA team proud, Ainge might be the best GM in the NBA. That Nets-Celtics trade that launched DA into GM superstardom was the most crucial moment for the Celtics post-2008. Out with the old, in with the new. Sure, he broke some hearts along the way, but that’s what rock stars do. With a cast of Brown, Rozier, Smart, and Tatum, Williams III seems to be the missing link between Game 7 and hoisting the Larry O Brien. Point of interest, Ainge addressed a major issue that Celtics had without giving up anything to get it. After all, defensive does win championships, and as previously mentioned, the new guy will bring that and then some.
His offense is the biggest question mark when translated to the NBA, though. Bluntly, he’s a poor shooter and fades in and out of games when he reverts to relying on teammates. Luckily he plays in Boston now, so he’ll have plenty of help putting the orange in the hoop and won’t have to carry a high volume scoring load. Still, even getting the ball to teammates might be tough as he’s even worse at passing out of tough situations or double teams, averaging 2.8 turnovers per 40/min. But, not all is lost. Someone named Irving usually handles the ball, so really Williams III just needs to get open. He won’t wow you with points, and his offensive blunders could have him spending time in the G League. If that is the case he won’t be there for long, if at all.
With recent, unexpected success coming so early from the Celtic youth, it’s hard to argue Danny didn’t get this one right too. RWIII isn’t going to blow you away on the offensive end every night, Boston has other players for that. DA drafted the exact player the Celtics needed: a defensive anchor. Another case of the Luck of the Irish seems to be the culprit, because a lot of teams needed the skill-set that comes along with a Robert Williams yet passed up on him twenty-six times. Why? Even tougher to find a real center anymore in the NBA, RWIII’s name could soon be coupled with Ayton and Bamba in years to come.
The Good, Bad, and Ugly
Williams was suspended to start his sophomore season at Texas A&M for an undisclosed reason that was dealt with at the school level. No doubt Danny Ainge did his own research, and even mentioned the red flags that come with Williams in a post draft interview. His college coach was quoted, “unfortunately, young people make mistakes”. Hopefully he was just caught self-medicating instead of some straight up criminal act. Which is better, right?
We’ve covered Williams offensive struggles, but pay very close attention to this. His complacency in the offensive when he can’t get things going slows him down as well as forces him into bad shots and passes. He shoots reminiscent of JaVale McGee taking a jumper, something no one wants to see. He also shoots free throws like Shaq. Not the most consistent player on either end, either. He might have a big frame but he hardly goes left. If you can stop him going right, you’ve most likely stopped him all together. Also, yes he has “hops”, but that’s a double edge sword as he falls for the slightest of fakes. A could be defensive star, Williams would benefit from getting minutes to keep his at-times-questionable motor running.
Rosters moves could propel or prevent Williams from getting some love, but he’ll bring an instant impact when his name’s called. Having a sweet baby hook when his backs to the basket will be in for a treat. Tatum exceeded expectations, while Rozier and Brown have become household names. DA might’ve found himself another diamond in Williams III, and with elbow grease and polish to his game, there’s potential to be the center of the future for not only Boston, but possibly the NBA.
Watch out Easten Conference, Boston has its defensive juggernaut. Ainge didn’t have to make a major trade or give up assets for one, and that’s a win right there. He does appear far behind offensively, so as a rookie he might be able to only offer easy baskets, putbacks, rebounds and blocked shots. Which hell, isn’t too shabby if you ask me. He’ll most likely be used for his athleticism around the basket, though it wouldn’t be surprising if he spent time developing in practice. Can he follow in the footprints of a Clint Capela or a DeAndre Jordan, similar athletes who don’t need the ball or jump shots to be effective? Expect him to be mostly a role player for now with potential to anchor an NBA team down the road.
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