Leandre: Robert Williams Continues to Shine in Extended Opportunity

Image: Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

A lot of focus has been given to trying to come up with a nickname for the Celtics first-round pick in this past NBA Draft.

But whether we want to call him the “Time Lord,” the “Block Mamba,” or “Lob Williams,” the fact of the matter is that Robert Williams is finally showcasing his talent in the extended minutes in the wake of Al Horford’s injury.

Despite only contributing two points and being a minus 14 in the 21-point victory against the Hawks on Friday, he’s continuing to show his potential as a rim protector for the Celtics in the future.

After being sent down to Maine for a week, Williams spring-boarded into a prominent role due to injuries to Aron Baynes and Horford. Typically rookies struggle when they are ‘thrown to the wolves’ so to speak, but Williams accepted the challenge. His first extended look came against the New Orleans Pelicans and their superstar big-man, Anthony Davis. Williams held his own against Davis, netting seven points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks in 25:30 on the floor.

You’ll notice a trend in Williams’ next two games. Baynes came back for the game against the Wizards, which the Celtics won in overtime. But Baynes’ return wasn’t enough to take Williams out of the rotation, as he proceeded to block two more shots, scoring six points and adding six rebounds in 14 minutes.

Against the Hawks, Williams had five more blocks sending announcers Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine into a state of euphoria. Five blocks are ridiculous by itself, but to do it in just 16 minutes on the floor makes it that much more impressive. On the season, he is averaging 15.3 points, 18 rebounds, and 8.7 blocks per 100 possessions, so it’s pretty evident that he isn’t just playing in the endings of blow-outs and going through the motions. He’s actually playing at a pretty high level.

Now, of course, there are some flaws to the defensive prowess of Williams. For starters, he overcommits on defense a lot, especially when he is trying to help. A lot of his last few games has consisted of him getting swat-happy, allowing the opposing offense to dish it off to the open man, leading to easy dunks.

But the improvements could and should be made over the course of the season.

So while the media focuses on what we’re supposed to call the former Aggie, the Celtics are continuing to find ways to get this man into the game so he can do what he was drafted to do—protect the rim.

 

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