The Boston Celtics busy offseason only got busier this afternoon, as the team extended young center Robert Williams to a new contract.
Coming in at four years, $54 million, this deal ensures the Celtics will get a chance to see whether or not Williams can continue his development into one of the better centers in the league.
New President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens continues to work tirelessly on rebuilding this roster, and extending Williams seemed like a no-brainer heading into the offseason. Fresh off setting career highs across the board, Williams was set to play on an expiring deal this upcoming season, making him a likely candidate for an extension this offseason.
While Williams has shown mounds of potential, there is a bit of inherent risk that comes along with this deal. Williams has proved to be quite injury prone over his first three seasons in Boston, only managing to play in 113 games over those three seasons.
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Despite that, this deal should be considered a huge win for Celtics fans. They were able to lock up an up-and-coming center in Williams for a relatively cheap price, giving him the freedom to continue to grow and develop. Not to mention, the Williams extension provides more clues as to what Stevens and the Celtics front office are working towards this offseason.
Unpacking everything from the Boston Celtics extension with Rob Williams
As mentioned, the deal itself is a win for the Celtics. Williams took an expanded role last season and ran with it, quickly announcing himself as the C’s top center on the roster when healthy. He’s a big reason that Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson are on different teams now.
Even with the returns of Al Horford and Enes Kanter this offseason, it’s clear Williams is the top center on this roster. He provides a paint presence on both ends of the court that no one else on this roster can come close to matching. And the exciting thing is he has only continued to get better throughout his first three seasons in Boston.
With that in mind, it makes sense that Boston’s front office worked towards striking a deal with Williams before the start of the season. Despite his injury issues so far, he’s just 23 years old, and should only get better with more opportunities. He only averaged 18.9 minutes per game last season, and with the way he finished off last season, he should be set for another jump in playing time this upcoming season.
Many fans lamented the short tenure of Moses Brown with this team, but it’s clear the Williams offers much more potential than Brown. While Brown came at a cheaper cost, Williams is a much better rim protector and finisher than Brown. Brown is a fantastic rebounder, but he’s not nearly as impactful a player as Williams is.
This deal should help Celtics fans understand why Brown was so quickly cast aside by the Boston Celtics. They quickly identified that Williams was their guy of the future, and they didn’t really have a spot on the roster for Brown as a result. Not only does this deal tell us why Brown was moved so soon, but it also shows us where this team is headed in the future.
Where do the Boston Celtics go from here?
Earlier this week, some fans were left confused as to why Stevens and the front office decided to extend veteran guard Marcus Smart, myself included. Prior to that deal, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were the only two players set to be under contract next season, so it seemed like Boston was looking to create enough cap space to pursue a big name free agent next season. Smart’s extension seemed to go against what this team was working for.
The Celtics ensuing moves have made the team’s plan much clearer however. Shortly afterwards, Boston finalized Evan Fournier’s departure from the team with a sign and trade with the New York Knicks. While originally set to lose Fournier for nothing, Stevens managed to toss in two second round picks to the Knicks in return for a $17.1 million trade exception.
And now they extended Williams, which only paints their plan in more detail. It seemed like the Celtics would be kings of the trade market coming into the offseason, but everybody started to panic and wonder what they were doing when they basically sat free agency out. A quick look at their current roster made it look like they were saving up to pursue a star next offseason, which made some semblance of sense.
While that idea was easy to get behind, it never seemed like an extremely likely path to improving this team. Acquiring players through trades had always seemed like the more likely option, and the Boston Celtics recent moves have only proved that.
First, acquiring another large trade exception helps Boston create some cap space to bring in more high value players that they originally couldn’t have. Not to mention, Boston still has a few other exceptions they haven’t used yet, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them continue to be active on the trade market.
The second piece of the puzzle is the extensions for Smart and Williams. Both guys are probably Boston’s best trade chips, but were heading into the season playing on expiring contracts. That’s not the case anymore.
Both Smart and Williams trade value has increased as a result of these deals. Whereas they were potentially going to just be rentals for a championship contender, they now are locked up for the foreseeable future on good value deals. A guy that will stick around for awhile is a lot more valuable than a rental.
This isn’t to say that Stevens is gearing up to send these guys away, but they have a lot of flexibility for the future that they didn’t necessarily have coming into the offseason. They could just as easily hang onto Smart and Williams, especially considering their deals are both good value and allow Boston to lure in more talent moving forward.
Whether they intended to or not, the Celtics front office has made their plan moving forward much clearer than it was at the start of the week. It’s been clear that Boston’s best path moving forward is through the trade market, and it’s abundantly clear now that’s how they plan on acquiring more talent moving forward. The Rob Williams extension is exciting in it’s own right, but it’s also nice to finally see what the Boston Celtics are aiming to accomplish this offseason.