How Robert Williams' Return Helps the Boston Celtics

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After a 37-game absence, Robert Williams was cleared to make his return to the Boston Celtics this past Saturday night against the Houston Rockets.  Though he didn't see the floor then, he should tonight against the Brooklyn Nets.  It's been a largely unremarkable two years for Williams so far.  He's only managed to appear in 51 games, and has started just three times.  However, his return should provide a boost to a Celtics bench that is in desperate need of one.

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY
Boston's bench has been the source of a lot of criticism this year, and even more so lately.  Some of it is a bit much.  People need something to complain about, so the bench is this year's target.  People will be quick to tell you about how poorly they played against the Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers this past week, and then conveniently forget to mention that just a couple of weeks ago in Houston, against that same Rockets team, Brad Wanamaker had 11 points off the bench and Grant Williams had seven points and four rebounds in just nine minutes.

Not the point, though.  Even I can admit that the bench is clearly the weakest part of this team, and it could be what stands between them and Banner 18.  A lot of fans were upset with Danny Ainge for not improving this bench at the trade deadline.  They wanted some bench scoring, or even another big man.  Well, Ainge once again chose to stand pat, with the hope that Williams can help in one of those regards.
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Williams won't come in and provide the scoring punch this unit is lacking, but he is 6'-8" with a 7'-6" wingspan and a 40" vertical.  He is going to provide a boost on both sides of the ball.  His numbers don't wow you, but his athleticism is going to bring an element to this second unit that is currently lacking.

On the offensive side of things, Williams is a lob threat.  His presence around the rim is going to make defenders think twice about helping off of him to stop dribble penetration.  If a guy like Kemba Walker attacks the basket and the guy guarding Williams cheats over to cut Walker off, he'll flip that ball up towards the rim and Williams will go up and slam it home.

After a couple of times doing that, all of a sudden Williams' man is less likely to come over, and Walker has an easier path to the basket.  You'll see this on occasion with Daniel Theis, but he doesn't possess anywhere near the athleticism that Williams does and is therefore not as much of a threat.  So, even if Williams is only putting in a couple of baskets a night, the manner in which he is getting those can open driving lanes.

Defensively, Williams' shot blocking prowess is well-known.  Though he has a small sample size, he has shown great rim protecting ability, and shot blocking instincts.  Even when an opponent thinks they have him beat, his athleticism can help him recover and still block, or at the very least alter, a shot.

I've seen him block shots from behind the offensive player.  I've seen him block shots as the weak side help defender.  I've seen him stand flat-footed, and still have enough bounce to get up and block a shot.  I've even witnessed - on a few occasions - Williams block a shot after falling for a pump fake.

When you have an effective shot blocker, other guys can play a little more aggressively.  They can overplay opponents, try for steals, knowing that they have a guy like Williams behind them who can help.

As he readies for his return, he's ready to show off his "IQ change."

According to Williams, the time he has spent on the sideline has allowed him to really study up on Boston's defensive assignments and schemes, and he feels that he is ready to be more vocal as the team's last line of defense. 

His biggest challenge will be staying on the floor.  If he can, he may just be the trade deadline move that Ainge never made.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: How Robert Williams' Return Helps the Boston Celtics
How Robert Williams' Return Helps the Boston Celtics
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