Is Robert Williams III The Next Big Celtics Center?

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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 09: General view is seen during the NBA match between Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics at TD Garden on December 09, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Boston Celtics center position has been considered the team’s weakest link since Al Horford departed in 2019. Since then, the Celtics have run a “center by committee” rotation both in 2020 and again in 2021. While it was one of their downfalls a season ago, the tide is slowly beginning to turn in the team’s favor. The Celtics have an absolute monster on their hands in Robert Williams III, and while he has spent all his three seasons on the bench thus far, is it time that he starts getting recognition as the next big Boston Celtics center?

Is Robert Williams III The Next Big Celtics Center?

Time and Patience For Timelord

When Robert Williams III was drafted to the Boston Celtics in 2018, he instantly became a fan favorite, both for his play in college and his immediate blunders with time management that earned him the viral nickname “The Timelord”. While there was no denying his talent at the collegiate level, his maturity and development into an NBA prospect took a little extra time, and he rarely saw playtime during his rookie year.

A year later, when it looked like Williams was due for a larger role with Horford gone, injuries consumed much of Timelord’s push for minutes in the Celtics center rotation. He was limited to only 29 games in 2019-2020, as he battled a left hip edema. However, despite the frustration, devastation, and overall catastrophic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic took on the better part of 2020, the long season suspension allowed Williams to rehab from said injury and earn some crucial playoff minutes down the stretch. He showed flashes of his potential, but he still had a ceiling made for him in the Celtics center rotation.

New Year, New Timelord

Despite the 2020-21 offseason being the shortest it had ever been, with the new year kicking off about two months after the 2020 NBA Finals concluded, Timelord showed exponential improvement in his game. While he was already an athletic freak of nature, he started showing that he developed more touch for the game and a much better IQ on both ends of the floor. Williams was making a believer out of Celtics fans as he has become a human highlight reel on a nightly basis.

Williams’ contributions may not show on the traditional stat sheet, but he surely passes the eye test, and the advanced analytics lean towards Williams flourishing in a much larger and more prominent role on the team, potentially as the starting Celtics center. Williams only logs 15 minutes a night, with 6.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.4 BPG, while shooting 72% from the field on four shots a night. While the shooting may not be impressive at an immediate glance, Williams has made a substantial leap shooting from mid-range, showing an ability to potentially groom himself into a stretch big while still being the dominant rim protector he is.

Assuming Williams earns some starting Celtics center minutes, his per 36 stats suggest he will be due for a massive leap. Per 36, Williams averages 15.1 PPG with 13.2 RPG and 3.1 BPG. Those minutes stack up next to Myles Turner and Rudy Gobert, who sit at the top two leaders in blocks per night. Williams for sure has the athleticism to play at that caliber. At age 23, his potential is through the roof.

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Why Williams As The Starting Celtics Center Works

While Kemba Walker has begun to show that the Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba is still alive, the Boston Celtics are a very young team. Lead by a 24-year-old Jaylen Brown and 22-year-old Jayson Tatum, both of whom are All-Stars in 2021, a 23-year-old Robert Williams fits the team’s timeline as they continue to find young talent capable of reaching franchise stardom. On Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, it was clear that Williams was the best big on the floor. He dominated the boards and protected the rim with eight rebounds and three blocks. He also logged 13 points with a handful of highlights, including a couple of alley-oops with one monster poster dunk on Ivica Zubac.

The Clippers had no answer for Timelord. Despite playing just 23 minutes, he helped cement the Celtics’ win by securing a couple of clutch rebounds and knocking down a free throw to build extra separation from the Clippers. This is huge for a guy like Rob who does not get enough clutch moment exposure as he should. For a game played on national television, Williams picked a darn good one to put on a show, both on the highlight reel and the impact of the game.

With the All-Star Break taking place this weekend, and with the Celtics (hopefully) returning to full health in the relative future, Williams is bound for a larger role. His impact helps the team win more games than lose. The best thing for Timelord is to gain more exposure and experience. While it may not translate to a championship ring in 2021, if Williams can progress to where the Celtics have a core of Tatum, Brown, Williams, and company for the next four, five, six, plus seasons, then that is a horrifying squad for any team in the league, if it already is not.

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