The 2019-20 NBA season, much like the rest of the sports world, was put on hold back in March at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the pandemic still rages on across the United States, the NBA is attempting to restart their season in a unique fashion.
Down in Orlando, Florida, 22 NBA teams have reported to “the bubble” to prepare for the season’s restart on July 30th. The seeding-game schedule has been set, and playoff seeding is still to be determined.
Heading into the restart, ESPN’s group of NBA Insiders put together a list of potential surprise players for all 22 teams set to play once the season resumes. One of those writers believes a former Vol star will be a surprise contributor down the stretch.
ESPN NBA writer Tim Bontemps tabbed former All-American and two-time SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams as the potential surprise player for the Boston Celtics once the season resumes.
“It isn’t often that a rookie can be labeled a cerebral player, and yet the description fits Williams perfectly,” Bontemps wrote. “An undersized power forward, Williams quickly earned the trust of Celtics coach Brad Stevens by showing a knack for knowing where to be and when to be there when he got chances to play. And, after famously opening his career by missing his first 25 3-point attempts, Williams shot 21-for-60 (35%) from deep after that. Williams should be an important reserve for the Celtics as they try to make it back to the NBA Finals for the first time in a decade.”
Williams left Tennessee after his junior season and was taken in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft by the Celtics. He’s played a role off the bench for Boston during his rookie campaign, and he’s been a valuable asset to the Celtics.
So far this season, the former UT standout has played in 62 of Boston’s 64 games and has made five starts. Williams is averaging 3.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 15.6 minutes per game. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound rookie is shooting 41.7 percent overall, 24.7 percent from three, and 72.5 percent from the free throw line.
After a slow start to the season, Williams has proven to be a reliable player off the bench for the Celtics over the latter half of the season. In his first 23 games, Williams was averaging just 2.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 0.8 assists while shooting 26.2 percent overall and making just two of his first 29 threes.
But since Williams’ breakout performance — an 18-point showing in Boston’s win over Detroit on December 20th — Williams has been much more effective.
Over his last 39 games before the season was put on hold, Williams was averaging 4.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 16.3 minutes while shooting 49.6 percent from the floor and 33.9 percent from three. He was able to top double-digits in scoring five times in that span, and he made at least one three in 14 of those appearances. He also grabbed at least three rebounds in 24 of those contests and dished out at least one assist in 24 of those games.
The Celtics will resume play on Friday, July 31st against the Milwaukee Bucks. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 PM Eastern.