Texas A&M’s Robert Williams’ drop in the NBA draft was eerily similar to DeAndre Jordan’s fall out of the first round in the 2008 Draft. When Williams announced he was entering the draft, it was thought he would be a mid to late lottery pick but he fell to the open arms of the Boston Celtics at 27. If Williams turns out to be the player Jordan developed into, the Celtics might be coming away with a steal of this draft.
When Jordan arrived on campus at Texas A&M, he was a clear one and done candidate and was a lock to be a lottery pick in the draft. As the college season went on, he struggled on the court and with new Aggie coach Mark Turgeon. Questions about his attitude and work ethic had his stock free falling until the Los Angeles Clippers selected him with the 35th pick. It took him a few seasons to find his stride but since then Jordan has developed into a rim protector and dangerous lob option with his leaping ability.
Williams projects as a similar prospect, standing only an inch shorter than Jordan at 6’10” but has the same value to develop into the vertical spacer on offense and as a rim protector on defense. His shot blocking ability will immediately help the Celtics who finished 18th in blocks per game last season. He does a great job switching onto guards in pick-and-rolls, using his length and lateral quickness to get his hands on the ball.
At A&M, he showed great skill rolling to the rim and finishing with his athleticism and hands. In the play below, Williams’ slipped the pick, caught and kept the ball high away from the weakside defender, and finished with a powerful dunk. Even when he came off the wedge screen, he does a great job catching the ball and pivoting towards the rim for the easy slam.
He is more advanced than Jordan in his passing ability, Williams has a great touch on the high-low pass, placing where only his teammate could get it. Then he made the right read out of the post to find an open shooter. These clips show, that he has the promise to make passes as he rolls to the rim. Rollers who can catch the ball while rolling to the rim and make the next pass, usually to the shooter in the corner for a three are valuable commodities.
Although Williams probably will not get a lot of post touches if any at all early on, he has a good foundation that the Celtics can continue to develop. He set up his defender up by taking three dribbles towards the middle and then spun off him, scoring with a little kiss off the glass.
Rim-running bigs are in high demand, besides Jordan, Clint Capela is about to cash in on this skill. Williams is fully capable of doing the same thing, as soon as his team secures the ball, he’s off and running. He runs the floor like a gazelle but finishes each play with a dunk. This is an element that has been missing for the Celtics in transition.
So why exactly did Williams fall in the draft if he fits into the model of a rim running, shot blocking, switchable big that most teams covet now? Well, again similar to Jordan, there are questions about his work ethic and motor. Even his time as a Celtic is off to a shaky start when the team had to push back their introductory press conference an hour because they couldn’t locate him. Could have been a simple miscommunication or time difference confusion but not the start the team would have wanted.
Williams’ fall in the draft was a gift for the Celtics with Aron Baynes and Greg Monroe both entering free agency on July 1 and Daniel Theis due to be a free agent the following summer. There may not be a lot of minutes immediately available for Williams but expect the Celtics to develop him into the new age, big man.
It was ten years ago since DeAndre Jordan dropped all the way to second round, Williams is a similar player, if not better in some aspects but there is a path he can follow to success. Although it may not have been a great feeling to drop out of the lottery, Williams landed in quite possibly the best situation for himself.
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