When Daniel Theis was dealt to the Chicago Bulls ahead of the NBA trade deadline, it was a major loss for the Boston Celtics. In addition to being a steady hand in the pivot with floor-stretching ability, Theis was an important part of the Celtics’ locker room.
When the two teams met on the hardwood last week, Celtics star Jayson Tatum said he was “sad” to see the big man in Bulls red.
As tough as it was for players and fans alike to see him go, though, Theis’ departure clearly opened doors for another popular Boston big man. Namely, Robert Williams III.
With Theis on the outs, Williams moved into the team’s starting center spot. In short order, he proceeded to thrill the Beantown masses with the highlight plays and big-time potential he had only been allowed to show glimpses of previously.
Since joining the starting five on March 26, Williams has averaged 10.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.0 blocks per contest. Along the way, he has connected on 69.2% of his shot attempts.
Meanwhile, his net rating of 7.5 over that stretch surpasses those of the team’s All-Stars, Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Nevertheless, a major hoops outlet just namechecked the talented 23-year-old as one of the team’s weakest links heading into the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
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Bleacher Report: Williams Is Celtics’ Weakest Link
On Sunday, Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes put out his list of the weakest link in every projected playoff team’s starting five. And while a certain starting point guard has underperformed at times this season, Hughes believes that the emergent Williams is actually the weakest link.
“Jumpy on defense and a bit too willing to showcase his admittedly exciting passing vision, Robert Williams will be tested on both ends.
“Time Lord can snatch a lob like few other bigs, and his combination of length and bounce make him a serious deterrent at the rim. But as is common with younger 5s, the 23-year-old Williams is often too eager to flash his skills. He gets pump-faked into oblivion, fouls too often and figures to find himself defending pick-and-roll actions with Kemba Walker alarmingly often.”
The thing is — he’s not wrong. As great as Williams has been (and his massive upside notwithstanding), he remains an inexperienced player with a lot of developing left to do.
His youth was never more apparent than when he was forced to square off with Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid. Williams fouled out after just 13 minutes of play and posted a minus-five in the plus/minus column during Boston’s April 6 loss to Philly.
And while Embiid may end up winning the league’s MVP trophy, his brand of basketball is more akin to what Williams will have to contend with in the playoffs.
Kemba Was an Option Here, Too
While Williams got the nod on Hughes’ list, the hoops pundit did note that Walker was almost his choice. Given Walker’s initial scuffling upon his return from injury and continued grind to figure out his place in the Cs offense, that should come as no surprise.
“Walker was another option here, by the way. He was plagued by inconsistency because of knee soreness in the 2020 playoffs, and after a season that saw him rest frequently, he may not hold up under the intensified stress of a postseason slate. The 6’0″ guard’s lack of size—and the presence of Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown on the wings—puts a mismatch-seeking target on his back by default.”
Still, he noted that Williams will have to contend with the likes of Embiid and Brook Lopez during postseason play. Moreover, teams will likely endeavor to attack him in the paint and force him to make tough reads defensively.
In the end, he may be up to the challenge, but expecting him to hold his own is probably an unreasonable ask for a young player in a new role.
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