As the Celtics are in the midst of their NBA Summer League play, there has been plenty of buzz surrounding their latest draft picks and undrafted signees. So far, the up and coming Celtics have thoroughly impressed with their play on the floor and their demeanor off of it. One player in particular has immediately stood out above the rest: Grant Williams.
Williams was the 22nd pick in the 2019 draft after coming off back-to-back SEC Player of the Year accolades in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons for the University of Tennessee Volunteers. In his three years at Tennessee, he averaged 15.7 points per game (PPG), 6.5 rebounds per game (RPG) and 2.1 assists per game (APG) over 104 games. He was also a consensus first team All-American following the 2018-2019 season. He also wrote an amazing scholarship essay while attending Tennessee.
The 6’7” power forward has picked up right where he left off, and has carried his impact over immediately to summer league play. He is averaging 11.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 2.0 APG. While it’s clear that Williams has been impressive on the stat sheet, his influence on the game goes far beyond the numbers.
Summer League play is far from a typical NBA environment, but Williams has quickly shown that he has a defensive awareness that could land him significant minutes in the Celtics rotation.
As an undersized power forward, Williams has the grit and hustle mentality that it takes to compete with players that have a height advantage over him. As seen in the video above, he is not afraid to get tangled with larger bodies in the paint, and has the awareness to remain within his defensive rotations. His ability to defend against different positions and different size players has drawn some early comparisons to that of Marcus Smart.
Williams’ long range shooting ability has been criticized as a weakness in his game. He shot only 29.1% from 3-point range in college. However, so far in Summer League play he has shown willingness to work on his outside game, while also developing his offensive approach overall.
It’s clear that his mentality on the offensive end mimics that of his defensive approach. He is still a raw talent, but clearly working to refine parts of his game that he knows will need improvement to succeed in real NBA games.
Although his long-range game is a work in progress, his 51.6% field goal percentage (FGP) in college is nothing to balk at. His inside game and awareness will do nothing but help his outside game progress.
Williams off-court story is just as intriguing as his on-court game. He chose to play for the University of Tennessee over attending both Yale and Harvard. His mother is a NASA engineer, which has stirred banter over his disagreement with a certain former Celtic’s “flat earth theory.” He has also considered himself as a “nerd” and “goofball” when asked about his personality and camaraderie with his new Celtics teammates.
For Celtics fans, Williams represents leadership for their new-age roster additions. His on-court game is predicated on hard-work and hustle. His off-court approach is humble, intelligent, and refreshingly playful. If there is ever a player that Celtics fans could and should get behind, it is Grant Williams.