Boston Celtics: Bracing for the return of Robert Williams and Ben Simmons

Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /
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Boston Celtics
Ben Simmons #10 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

What does the return of Ben Simmons mean for the Boston Celtics?

On the other hand, Boston has to account for the potential return of Ben Simmons. The embattled point forward has not taken the court this season, but that appears set to change in Game 4 now. For those who forgot, Simmons refused to play for the Philadelphia 76ers earlier this season, forced a trade to Brooklyn, but then ended up suffering a back injury that has kept him out all this time.

Now it appears Simmons will finally make his debut this season, in the playoffs nonetheless. Nobody has any idea what to expect from Simmons. Last time we saw him he looked like a shell of himself in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, as he was passing up wide-open layups to give the ball to his teammates.

At his best, Simmons is one of the best playmakers and defenders in the NBA. But Simmons is not always at his best, and expecting him to be right off the bat seems like wishful thinking. He may also end up being limited to just 10-15 minutes of action per game right off the bat. Overall, Simmons impact on this series is a huge cloud hanging above both the Celtics’ and Nets’ heads right now.

The return of Rob Williams is vital for a number of reasons, but maybe the most important is that his defensive presence will make Simmons’ life on offense ten times more difficult. Simmons has virtually no jumpshot to speak of, and relies on layups and dunks to get pretty much all of his points. And now he’s going to have to go through Williams to get to the rim, which is easier said than done.

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Simmons biggest impact on this series is probably going to come on defense. He’s one of the best wing defenders in the league, and considering Brooklyn has nobody who can really guard Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, that’s a win for the Nets. Now he’s not going to match these guys minute for minute, but if he can come in and slow down one of them for a stretch of the game, no matter how short, it’s better than what the Nets have been doing on defense to start.

The problem for Brooklyn is that it simply may not matter. Simmons relies on having the ball in his hands to create offense. This issue there is that Durant and Irving do too. Brooklyn’s fourth quarter offense in Game 2 was basically just Durant or Irving running an iso play and hoping for the best, and Boston knew this, so they were sending two or three bodies at the ballcarrier every possession.

There’s a pretty decent chance Simmons will get relegated to sitting in the corner while Durant or Irving goes to work, which is just a complete waste considering Simmons cannot shoot whatsoever. They are probably going to swap him out for a perimeter threat such as Seth Curry or Patty Mills. The Celtics have been ignoring those guys for long stretches of the first two games, so they certainly are not going to worried about Simmons if he’s just sitting at the three point line.

Brooklyn has put a lot of their hopes in Simmons coming back and playing at an All-NBA level, which is just unrealistic at this point. Simmons has not played a minute of basketball with the Nets this season; he’s not going to magically pick things up with a snap of the fingers. That’s what the regular season is for, and well, Simmons missed the entire regular season.

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Boston needs to be wary of Simmons’ return, and the Nets overall offensive firepower, but the more important takeaway here is the return of Williams. With Williams in the fold the Celtics looked unbeatable for long stretches of the season. He’s a safer bet to return to form than Simmons, and for that reason, the Celtics and their fans should feel pretty good with where their team is at two games into the playoffs, while still acknowledging the threat Brooklyn poses.