Grant Williams was a star for Tennessee’s men’s basketball program. In his three years as a Vol, Williams was a two-time SEC Player of the year, a consensus All-American, and finished his career as one of only a handful of Vols ever to accumulate 1,600 career points and 650 career rebounds.
It’s precisely for all those reasons — coupled with his strong basketball IQ — that those who cover the Boston Celtics believe Williams could make an instant impact with his new NBA team.
Williams was selected by the Celtics with the No. 22 overall pick in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft over the summer. Boston had two first-round picks, two second-round selections, and they signed four more rookies after the draft process finished.
That’s a lot of competition for Williams right out of the gate, and that doesn’t even include the veterans Boston has on their roster for the upcoming season such as Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Marcus Smart. But out of all of the new faces being welcomed in to Boston’s roster, Williams has the potential to have the biggest impact for the Celtics in the 2019-20 season according to a panel of analysts who cover the team.
Yahoo Sports asked three different analysts who primarily cover the Boston Celtics which of the C’s rookies will have the most impactful 2019-20 season for Boston. All three chose the two-time SEC Player of the Year as their selection.
Boston’s lottery pick, Romeo Langford, had thumb surgery in the offseason and missed the entire summer’s worth of games with the Celtics’ organization. Carsen Edwards, the electric point guard out of Purdue, has the potential to be a major point-scorer at any time, and Tremont Waters from LSU has a lot of upside in the backcourt as well. But Boston already has a somewhat crowded backcourt with a solid group of guards, even with the departure of Terry Rozier this offseason.
The Celtics do, however, have a need in the frontcourt for productive minutes. And that’s just what the three analysts predict Williams will give Boston this season.
“The Celtics need all the help they can get in the frontcourt,” wrote Abby Chin, the Celtics’ courtside reporter. “The opportunity is there. And I feel like there’s a lot of hype surrounding the smart, versatile, if a little undersized, Tennessee product. I’m expecting big things.”
Williams is a littler undersized in the NBA to play the same power forward-type role he played for the Vols, but he brings plenty of skills to a Boston frontcourt that’s low on depth outside of the projected starters.
A. Sherrod Blakely, who covers the Celtics for NBC Sports Boston, echoed Chin’s sentiments about Boston’s lack of frontcourt depth and Williams’ ability to help out there. While Blakely doesn’t believe Williams will bring the “wow factor” to the court, he believes the former Vol forward will give the Celtics what they need.
“The team’s lack of depth and overall uncertainty in the frontcourt means all their bigs, Grant Williams included, will get a chance to play,” Blakely wrote. “He won’t wow us with his numbers but his basketball savvy will come in handy on some nights and play a role in the Celtics winning more games than most anticipate.”
Max Lederman, who also works for NBC Boston, is a big fan of Williams’ physique and his maturity.
“Williams already has an NBA body (strength wise, at least) and is a smart, winning player,” Lederman said. “I was also really impressed with his willingness to let the game come to him in summer league, which shows me he’ll be fine in whatever role the team asks him to play. He’s also a concrete wall setting screens.”
As a Vol, Williams showed off all those qualities listed above, especially in his junior season. In his final year with the Vols, Williams averaged 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game in 37 games.
Williams will get a chance to show what he can do with the Celtics when they begin the preseason on October 6th against the Charlotte Hornets. Boston’s first regular season game is on Wednesday, October 23rd against the Philadelphia 76ers.