If you haven’t already hopped aboard the Robert Williams hype train, you might want to hurry up.
The Boston Celtics center has taken his game to a higher level over the last month. Really, since entering the Walt Disney World bubble last year, Williams has been a highly effective player when given an opportunity to play extended minutes.
Williams ranks fifth in the NBA with a 31.31 player efficiency rating, as defined by ESPN basketball analytics expert John Hollinger. For the uninitiated, PER is an overall rating of a given player’s per-minute statistical production.
Now, we don’t expect you to see a 31.31 PER and immediately say, “Oh, now I get why people are high on Williams.” We aren’t exactly talking about a household basketball stat.
However, consider the top 20 players in Hollinger PER:
1. Joel Embiid
2. Nikola Jocic
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
4. Zion Williamson
5. Robert Williams
6. Kawhi Leonard
7. Damian Lillard
8. Luka Doncic
9. Jimmy Butler
10. Kevin Durant
11. Stephen Curry
12. Clint Capella
13. Kyrie Irving
14. James Harden
15. LeBron James
16. Anthony Davis
17. Nikola Vucevic
18. Rudy Gobert
19. Bradley Beal
20. Montrezl Harrell
If you’re thinking, “There must be a caveat,” then you are correct — there’s a big one. Williams is averaging 18.4 minutes per game, by far the fewest of any player on that list. The only players with fewer than 30 minutes per game are Capella (29.8), Harrell (25.2) and Williams. Nevertheless, Williams plays far more than the 6.09 minutes-per-game qualifier.
Is Williams really in the same company as the other players on that list? Definitely not, although he’s on his way to being Boston’s version of Capella.
But he also has seen his minutes dramatically increase in recent weeks. Since Feb. 26, Williams is averaging 22.9 minutes per game over 17 contest. Since the Celtics traded Daniel Theis, thus freeing a spot in the starting lineup for Williams, the 2018 first-round pick is averaging 27.3 minutes per game in five contests.
And he’s filling the stat sheet. Since Feb. 26, Williams is averaging 10.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.5 blocks and 0.8 steals per game, nearly all up from his season totals of 8.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.8 blocks and 0.9 steals. (By the way, we’re using Feb. 26 as the cutoff because it represents when Williams began seeing extended minutes on a consistent basis.)
We’ll see if Williams keeps this up, and we’ll see if he stays healthy. If he can, the Celtics legitimately will have one of the best young big men in the NBA.