Boston Celtics News: Robert Williams injury could destroy C’s title hopes

Robert Williams III #44 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Kathryn Riley/ Getty Images)
Robert Williams III #44 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Kathryn Riley/ Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics destruction of the NBA just keeps on going. Their latest victory came against a Minnesota Timberwolves team that was just as hot as the Celtics, as they had won 11 of their previous 14 games heading into last night’s game. It didn’t matter though, as Boston won by 22 points.

A 22 point victory over a solid Western Conference opponent would usually be a cause of serious uproar, but this has pretty much been the status quo for the C’s as of late. They are regularly blowing out teams, regardless of their record, and have asserted themselves as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. They now sit a top the East standings after being in 11th place just a few months ago.

It’s been all good times and blowout victories in the 2022 calender year for Boston. Unfortunately, the Celtics are now set to face their first substantial obstacle in quite some time, as it was announced that starting center Robert Williams is set to miss several weeks with a torn meniscus injury that he suffered in last night’s win. This is a huge loss for the C’s, and it could ultimately destroy their title hopes this season.

Losing Robert Williams is a massive blow to the Boston Celtics postseason prospects

Williams was ruled out in the second half of the team’s win over the Timberwolves, but by then the game was already over. Moving forward though, things probably won’t come as easily for the Celtics, and they are going to sorely miss Williams’ production for however long he is out for.

I recently looked at how Williams should garner at least some consideration for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award. While he probably won’t win it, the fact that he’s being discussed as a candidate shows how vital he is to this team. Losing Williams takes away a dynamic vertical threat on both sides of the ball, and the team doesn’t exactly have a clear replacement for him moving forward.

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With Williams’ regular season now over, he finishes the season averaging 10 points per game, 9.6 rebounds per game, and 2.2 blocks per game. The development he made this season was a huge reason for Boston’s sudden emergence into a championship contender. After being an injury prone bench player for most of the first three seasons of his career, Williams finally made the jump to the starting lineup this season.

The key piece in Williams’ development was his ability to control himself on the court. He often came off the bench looking to make a huge impact play, and would get caught being too aggressive when he didn’t really have to be. Williams still makes big plays in the form of mammoth dunks or sending an opponent’s layup into the stands, but his patience and ability to not get overly aggressive has allowed him to make a huge leap this season.

Now Boston has to embark on a grueling seven game stretch to close out the regular season without one of their best players. They still have to play the Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, and Memphis Grizzlies before the season ends. So while they are in the one seed right now, it may end up being a short lived stay.

How will the Boston Celtics replace Robert Williams moving forward?

The good news for Boston is that they still have a relatively solid group of bigs moving forward. Al Horford, Grant Williams, and Daniel Theis will make up the rotation, with Theis getting an expanded role. It didn’t really seem like a huge move at the time, but picking up Theis from the Houston Rockets at the Trade Deadline is about to pay off in a big way.

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Horford and Williams have been a solid duo all season long, and they are going to have to pick up some of the slack left in the Time Lord‘s absence. Horford has really gotten going offensively after a slow start to the season, and he continues to play defense at a very high level. Williams continues to profile as a knockdown three point shooter (42.1 percent on the season), so it’s not as if the Boston Celtics are going to be hung out to dry now.

The starting lineup figures to see a Williams-for-Williams swap, with Grant replacing Rob and starting at power forward while Horford slides over to center. Grant has also spent time playing as an undersized center this season, which he can do, but the team picked up Theis so that they could avoid that. Head coach Ime Udoka could also decide to start Derrick White and move Jayson Tatum to power forward, but Udoka seems to prefer to bring White off the bench.

None of these guys are going to be able to replace Williams on their own, but they each bring something unique to the table that Udoka should be able to use to his advantage. Both Horford and Grant Williams are solid defenders, and playing them together in the starting lineup should help Boston continue to play at a high level on both ends of the court.

In some ways, the key piece to this puzzle is Theis. Theis doesn’t really do anything that jumps off the page, but he’s a serviceable player on both offense and defense. He struggles with foul calls on a nightly basis, but he always does what’s asked of him. He’s also a sizeable upgrade over a guy like Enes Freedom, who went the other in the trade that landed Theis. If that move doesn’t happen, the Celtics would be in some real trouble.

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Yet even with Theis, they still may be in trouble. The Eastern Conference is stacked with contenders, but thanks to Williams prowess on both sides of the ball, he helped the Boston Celtics rise to the top. Now that he’s out, Boston may end up regressing, and how they responded to this extremely large obstacle is going to be key in determining how the season ends for this team.