Grant Williams’ three-point shooting could unlock the Celtics
Celtics rookie Grant Williams took 103 three-pointers through three seasons at Tennessee, and due to his size and projected role in the NBA, he was going to have to develop his outside stroke to succeed at the next level.
The early returns weren’t good, as Williams missed his first 25 attempts from three to begin his career. His defensive versatility and positioning were great, but his offense was, as for most rookies, very much a work in progress. Now with about four months in between regular-season games for the Celtics, Williams has been able to work on his jumper a bit more. And his teammate Enes Kanter has certainly taken notice.
“Let me tell you something about Grant, he is making 3s like crazy. I promise,” Kanter said on his podcast. “The Celtics fans might not believe this but he is one of like the most sharpest shooters on the team. I think he worked so hard during the quarantine time, now he’s like a 3-man.”
The idea of Williams developing a consistent three-point stroke during the season hiatus should make Celtics fans smile from ear-to-ear. Williams started to show signs of improvement from beyond the arc as the season went on, but if he can stretch the floor and play the kind of defense he’s capable of, it’s going to be very difficult for Brad Stevens to take him off the floor.
Grant Williams’ three-point shooting pre-December
0-21 3P / 0.0%
Grant Williams’ three-point shooting post-December
21-64 / 32.8%
Once Williams got off the snide and finally hit a three-pointer, he shot 35% from deep the rest of the way. It’d be unfair to expect anything over 35% for a player that’s still in the early stages of his development as a marksman, but Kanter’s perspective makes it hard not to get excited.
Williams played 37% of his minutes during the season at center, with the remaining 67% at power forward. While the Celtics’ offense wasn’t other-worldly (44th percentile), their defense was incredible, holding teams to 103.6 points per 100 possessions (96th percentile).
You can probably credit Williams’ ability to hold his own down low against much bigger players but also effectively switch on to wings and guards and keep his man in front of him. Not to mention all the little things he does like tagging cutters, providing terrific help defense and his ability to ICE without losing his initial assignment.
I have a feeling that if Williams can start to make defenders worry about him beyond the arc and open up driving lanes for the team’s star wings, those lineups with him at center will score more efficiently.
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It’s no secret the center position is Boston’s weakest spot on the floor. That’s not as much of a dig at Kanter or Daniel Theis as much as a compliment to the rest of the roster and an example of what losing Al Horford and Aron Baynes in one offseason will do to a frontcourt rotation.
If Williams can earn Stevens’ trust on both ends of the floor, he should be the backup center. Not Kanter, not Rob Williams and certainly not Tacko Fall. Williams’ positional versatility and feel for the game is exactly the kind of skill set Boston needs at the five. All he needs to do is hit a few deep balls.
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