At this point, most know the story. As a rookie, Grant Williams missed his first 25 3-point attempts. The calendar reached the second week of December before one fell through the net. His Boston Celtics his teammates sarcastically nicknamed him Ben Simmons to parallel their freezing sweaters. Williams finished 2019-20 drilling 25% of his looks from beyond the arc. His true shooting percentage was a paltry 50.5.
A season later, he continued to progress and converted 37.2% of his long balls. Still, he was unsure how to score inside the arc, sporting a 50.8% clip (2.2 points below league average) and registering a 54.6 true shooting percentage . Over the past two seasons, Williams has fused outside and inside prowess.
He buried 42.4% of his three children, including 46.5% this year. Its rider summons fear into the defenses, freeing up room to explore the descent. He’s shooting 69.2% from inside the arc, down from 56.9% in 2021-22 and 52.8% in his first two seasons. His 71.7 true shooting percentage leads the NBA.
While some may have wondered or worried if Williams’ long-range marksmanship was a fluke, he empathetically decided to convey the opposite. Its release is faster in the face of one-off liquidations. He added the nifty and practical triplet to his arsenal. He tries more adventures off the dribble – his frequency of pull-up threes has increased from 4.2% last year to 13.3% (12 of 22 so far).
The footwork that propelled him to stardom as a two-time SEC Player of the Year at the University of Tennessee accentuates his budding jumper. The 6-foot-6 wing is by no means confined to stationary spots. There is real diversity in the way it generates deep volume. Last season wasn’t a fluke, it was a launch pad.
Between the 2021-22 regular season and the playoffs, Williams hoisted 347 threes and made 40.6%. Considering he ranks 10th in utilization rate on the most effective offense in the league, opponents always prioritize other options before limiting his volume. But he is a legitimate threat and more regularly seen as such than in previous years. This evolving dynamic has allowed Williams to expand his repertoire when exiled from the three-point line.
It also gains some newfound autonomy to showcase this progress; compared to last yearpossession time and average dribbling per touch cheered up. After producing runs on just 53.7% of his drives a season ago, he’s producing on 74.6% of his drives this season.
It’s faster after the rebound, seems more comfortable navigating tight windows, and seems to offer improved flexibility. According to Cleaning The Glass, its assisted manufacturing rate went from 86% to 79%. Ideas about the obvious creative chops in college surface.
The dribble-pass-shoot ethos of the Celtics offense has worked its way into Williams’ portfolio. It shoots 79% at the rim (87th percentile among the bigs) and 59% on the midrange court (88th percentile). Intermediate touch was a hallmark of his pace before the draft and he updates it in the fourth year.
Defenses cannot successfully hide their weakest link on him. Whether with the jumper or as a pilot, he will know how to exploit it. He’s also willing to get in on some action with one of Boston’s various ball handlers, become a screen, and let someone else exploit the lag presented to him.
The Celtics’ offense thrives in part because of off-ball screens, whether it’s flares, pindowns or turns. Williams is a great screener who knows when to hold for a touch or slip inside early because the defense is overplaying shooters. He’s comfortable coming off screens for three and is a keen passer whose decision-making helps amplify upside. His mastery of the sly, cheeky Gortat Seal expands and simplifies traffic lanes for teammates.
The first two years of Williams’ career portrayed a very fine defender whose undersized frame and offensive stiffness complicated how much he could play to augment that defensive talent. He remains a top defenseman, equipped to thrive in Boston’s switch-heavy scheme and deploys his dexterity to disrupt the rhythm of his opponents.
This year, he’s anything but a rigid offensive cog and leverages his ridiculous strength to smooth out the obstacles of his frame and limited vertical pop. In last season’s playoffs, he shot a measly 49.2 percent on two runs. His intermediate touch escaped him. In the Finals, the Celtics offense crumbled; they couldn’t score inside the arc or shield the ball.
Both will aim to avoid these pitfalls in the spring. The development and emergence of Williams could help them achieve those goals together.