The big man was suspended for the first two games of this past season at Texas A&M due to a violation of team policy. In addition, his motivation and will to win were questioned in scouting reports.
How do the Celtics feel about that?
After making the selection, head coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge each addressed the media, and their message was pretty simple: they do their own checking, and they don’t pay any mind to what else is out there.
“You never know everything about everybody obviously, but we’re comfortable with who he is,” Ainge said. “And a lot of people that we talked to — his coaches, his teammates, his trainers — we check with a lot of people that are familiar with him and everybody likes Robert. And I know that he’s not perfect, most players aren’t, and we think he’s got great upside. We’re very excited to have him, I’m not trying to defend our reason for drafting him, but we find that he’s going to be a good player. We liked what we found on those background checks.”
Last season Williams was projected as a potential lottery pick, and many pundits were quick to assert that he still has lottery-level talent and can be a major threat in the NBA as long as he gets his mind right.
“You know, we do our own background checks,” Ainge added. “We don’t read what everybody else says. And when you say people are projected, like that was before he even went through the draft process so I didn’t even really believe that anyway. I think that the game is changing a little bit but as far as having skilled bigs we have skilled bigs on our team right now. But Robert, like I said, he brings a new element to the game, he’s very young, he still has upside. I think there’s parts of his game that have been untapped so far.”
With that in mind, as Williams kept slipping down the board the sentiment wasn’t so much worry on the Celtics’ part, rather excitement in having him fall into their lap.
“It’s not my job to know what the other 26 teams (ahead of us) are thinking,” Stevens said. “They obviously all have a lot of people that work hard and try to find and target the right pick for their team. We thought that he was the right pick for us and we felt very fortunate to be able to get him tonight. He’s, again, a very good player. There’s a lot of good players out there, and it’s not my job to assess that.”
Indeed, Williams brings a dimension to the game the Celtics haven’t really had out of a big in quite some time.
He’s a big body at 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, while weighing in at 240 pounds. Despite his size, he’s a great athlete and moves well, showing some prowess at finishing above the rim even if his offense as a whole isn’t totally refined.
So while speculation will run rampant and the past is something Williams is going to have to answer to, the Celtics appear to be more than confident in their decision and didn’t seem to make the move with any reticence.
Thumbnail photo via Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports Images