How Good Can Robert Williams Be?

The Celtics blew out the undermanned Nets on Wednesday night 149-115, the most points scored by a Celtics team since 1992. Among the top performers was Robert Williams, who finished with a career-high 18 points on perfect shooting from the field and the free throw line to go along with 3 blocks.

On the surface, the way in which Williams scored most of his points wasn’t all that impressive. It was mostly easy dunks at the rim, save for one eye opening mid-range jumper with the shot clock winding down in garbage time. However, it’s not so much about Williams being skilled or not skilled. It’s all about the production.

Williams isn’t incredibly crafty offensively, but it’s his rare athleticism that makes him such a unique offensive weapon for the Celtics. The ability to be a lob threat is often looked down upon in some NBA circles, but it’s something not many players can do consistently. Not every team has a center with that kind of bounce, coordination and agility. Teams that do have players like that are usually pretty good. Players like Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan have played significant and impactful roles as rim running centers for top Western Conference contenders over the last decade. If Williams can get the Celtics 12 or so points every night on near perfect shooting, how much does it really matter that they’re not coming off of Kevin McHale-esqe post moves?

Speaking of DeAndre Jordan, there are many parallels between the former Clipper and current Nets big man and Robert Williams. When comparing their second year numbers to each other, they’re nearly identical:

‪DeAndre Jordan’s second NBA season:‬
‪16.2 MIN‬
‪4.8 PPG‬
‪5.0 RPG‬
‪0.9 BPG‬

‪Robert Williams’ second NBA season:‬
‪14.0 MIN‬
‪4.3 PPG‬
‪4.7 RPG‬
‪1.2 BPG‬

Jordan has lost his luster in recent years, but in his prime was a 3x All-NBA selection, 1x All-Star and finished top four in Defensive Player of the Year voting three different times. It might be hard to believe, but Robert Williams can reach those heights. Remember, he was a 2x SEC Defensive Player of the Year in college and projected lottery pick prior to his perplexing draft night fall. Jordan is a great ceiling for Williams to aspire to reach.

Best Stevens was asked directly after the game what Robert Williams has to do to earn more minutes, but failed to answer the question. Instead, Stevens reiterated how well Williams played against Brooklyn, even when they went small. Stevens side-stepping the question perhaps isn’t the best sign for those hoping for Williams to play a bigger role down the stretch and into the playoffs for Boston, of which there are many.

Williams could still use a little more polish. He still chases blocks, which often leaves opposing big men open under the rim for easy dump offs, but that’s improved in the last year. Brad Stevens wants to mold Williams into a player that fits perfectly into the Celtics defensive system. A player that plays team defense rather than individual defense. Jordan wasn’t a regular starter for the Clippers until his third year either. Williams might not be ready to make a major impact in the 2020 playoffs, but he should be starting on nightly basis by next season.

Photo: (Ashley Landis – AP Photo)

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