BOSTON — The Celtics have very few holes to fill entering the 2018-19 season. But Robert Williams was about as good of a need-based pick as they could get.
Williams, Boston’s lone selection at No. 27 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft, is the quintessential “rim-runner” who can block shots on the defensive end and finish at the rim at the other, much in the mold of Clint Capela.
The 20-year-old flashed that potential at Texas A&M, where he earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors as a freshman in 2017, and blocked 2.6 shots per game as a sophomore while adding 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest.
That skill set should mesh well in a dynamic Celtics offense filled with shooters and playmakers.
“He’s got good feet, he’s a good athlete, he’s got a 7-foot-5 wingspan and he plays way above the rim,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of Williams on Thursday night during a press conference at Red Auerbach Center, the team’s new practice facility.
“If you can have four shooters on the floor and a guy like that rolling to the rim, you can just throw it up in the air and he can go get it and finish it.”
In fact, the C’s so coveted Williams that they began discussing him at “around (pick number) 17 or 18,” according to Stevens.
Indeed, Williams initially was touted as a lottery pick, which brings us to the other side of the 6-foot-9 big man’s story. Concerns about his work ethic and off-court issues — he was suspended two games last season for violating Texas A&M policy — caused his draft stock to slip, and he’s still unpolished offensively.
But the C’s clearly see the potential in Williams, and in many ways, Boston is the perfect place for him: a successful, stable franchise with hardworking players and an exceptional head coach.
“He won’t have any better role models than the guys in front of him,” Stevens noted, before seemingly issuing his first motivational message to the newest Celtic.
“I think the biggest key in this environment is, he’s got to come to work. … When he comes (next) Sunday, all the hoopla will be done and it’s time to get to work.”
Despite the reports about trading up to a top-10 pick, the Celtics didn’t need to hit a home run in the 2018 draft. Their loaded roster and war chest of future draft picks gave them the flexibility to seek out a player who may have some red flags but boasts plenty of upside.
Williams fits that mold to a tee, and if he lives up to his potential, he could fill Boston’s need for an athletic, rim-defending big man and contribute right out of the gate.
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