Can Rob Williams Be a Real Third Option for the Celtics?

The season is about a month away and Celtics predictions are all over the place. The team has a lot of returning pieces, but a lot has changed. The season could go any number of ways. Nevertheless, the talk surrounding this team consistently revolves around two things: lineups and how new coach Ime Udoka will use his bigs. 

Among those bigs, is one Rob Williams III. Previously, I wrote Williams was the Celtics center of the future, and I still believe that. This season he will show it. Williams has a legitimate chance to start with Tristan Thompson gone. Al Horford has also come back which works towards Williams’s benefit more than anything. Williams has sustainability problems and Horford is a reliable big that can play together with Williams, taking pressure off of him. Horford is a captain for the defense and can help with tough assignments in the first box. Williams is highly athletic but injury prone and having a quality back-up night to night will do him wonders.

Offensively, Horford is one of the most adaptable players out there. He can space the floor and pass. His last stint in Boston he lead the team in assists. Horford, unlike other bigs, actually makes the rest of the team better. 

This year will hopefully be Rob’s first normal year. One that isn’t his rookie season or Covid plagued. He has a rookie coach but that can work towards his benefit as well. He is a players’ coach that is professing ball movement. No one will benefit more from that movement than Williams. Williams is statistically one of the best lob threats in the league. It’s a small sample size but his effective field goal percentage is among the highest percentile. 

While health remains to be a question he’s going into this season more optimistic.

The Celtics also made the front court re-addition of Enes Kanter. In the 2020 season the two only played 5 possessions together, but they have potential. Kanter is a great rebounding threat as well as an efficient scorer (more on Kanter here from Rob Greene). Williams can benefit from this as well if Udoka plays them. This would be an unlikely combination but could be effective with the right players in the right minutes. Using a line-up like this to supplement scoring while Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown are resting would be ideal. The versatility of the roster in the front court will be something Udoka needs to feel out.

The Celtics have a top 2 duo in the league this year but everyone is skeptical about the rest of the team. The main focus is Tatum and Brown. Both showed all-star talent on both sides of the floor, they’re going to get theirs. The question is where will the third option be? This was a struggle for the Celtics last year with Kemba Walker missing nearly 30 games. Williams showed flashes of his ability to be that third guy, it just depends on if he can stay there. This is only his fourth year so it’s reasonable to say he isn’t there yet but it is a benchmark season where we need to see real reliability from him.

The Celtics are in a tough conference, so they don’t have many luxuries as far as experimentation. But they do have two very solid cornerstones to build around and it’s time to find the pieces that fit around them. 

(Photo: AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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