Most Improved Player awards don't go to guys like Grant
Williams. They're typically reserved for players making the leap to
stardom, and Williams is still a bench player in a healthy Boston
So when I say that Williams is one of the NBA's most improved
players, don't think of it in the same context. Williams has
completely transformed his NBA impact this season on a Celtics
squad that desperately needed some in-house transformation. His fit
on the roster, and in the larger-league sphere, has gone from a
question mark to a grinning smiley emoji.
A year ago, no one knew who Williams could be as an offensive
piece. I even thought Juan Hernangomez
would replace him in the rotation. Now, he's everything the
Celtics need him to be, and might have even taken himself out of run-of-the-mill
According to Cleaning the Glass, Williams averaged 109.5 points
per 100 shot attempts in 2020-21, a dismal number in the 22nd
percentile for his position. This year, he's at 133.4, in the 88th
percentile among all bigs. That's nuts, especially
for a big with less of a paint presence, and worth exploring.
Obviously, we have to start with Williams' 44.6% three-point
clip, which is currently second in the league behind PJ Tucker.
He's maximizing on the gravity of guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen
Brown; 44.9% of Williams' field goal attempts are "wide open"
threes (when a defender is at least six feet away), and he's
hitting 48.8% of those looks. The 23-year-old has canned over half
of his corner threes and also cranked up his above-the-break
success from 33% (42nd percentile) to 39% (82nd percentile).
Williams is making quicker decisions to shoot. Over 85% of his
field goal attempts come without holding the ball for more than two
seconds, up from 72.6% last season. That seems partially due to
confidence and more of a defined role as a corner spacer. He's
averaging 1.51 seconds per touch when he gets the ball, which is
the second-fewest in the main Celtics rotation behind only Robert
To top things off, Williams' 89.8% free-throw clip represents an
enormous 31% boost from last season. The shooting improvement
appears to be here to stay.
But Williams' isn't just evolving as a shooter. I've been
floored by his improved poise when he attacks closeouts. Look at
this progression, courtesy of Second Spectrum/NBA Stats (note:
mobile readers should scroll right).
Williams has hit the sweet spot. He's finishing tough on drives
and is an equal threat to throw a quality pass out of an attack.
Williams has made 75.0% of his overall at-rim attempts, per
Cleaning the Glass, which is in the 84th percentile among bigs. His
overall turnover rate is down from a ghastly 17.6% to a
league-average 12.7%. Here are some of his high-level
drive-and-assists, just for fun:
This newfound offensive arsenal almost distracts from why
Williams is in the rotation in the first place: his defense.
According to BBall Index, Williams ranks in the 99th percentile for
"positional versaility" and the 92nd percentile for "role
versatility." Those metrics estimate how evenly Williams guards
various positions and player types on the court. He's a key cog in
coach Ime Udoka's switch-heavy scheme, and it reflects in these
Boston has searched for this type of versatile, low-usage
stretch forward for years dating back to the Jae Crowder days. The
Celtics drafted Semi Ojeleye and added Marcus Morris, but neither
of those moves worked out. Ex-president of basketball operations
Danny Ainge publicly said he was looking to
add "shooting with size" at the 2021 trade deadline.
If you buy the sample size of this season, Grant Williams
appears to have fit the bill.
THE OUTLIERS (a.k.a. other random interesting numbers I
find in the void):
- This one comes from Nekias Duncan, who just wrote a really fantastic piece
about Boston's recent surge: The Celtics average 1.23 points per
possession when Marcus Smart is used as a screener. That's the best
number among 164 players who have set at least 75 picks. It's been
a super creative way to utilize a strong, physical guard.
- Davion Mitchell is shooting 40% on pull-up threes over the past
10 games. That's an encouraging stretch for the Kings rookie.
Go learn more about him from
- Jackson Frank whipped out this impressive stat in his deep dive on Brandon Ingram: "In
27 games since Dec. 3, he has an assist rate of 27.9% (96th
percentile among forwards, according to Cleaning The Glass) and a
turnover rate of 9.9% (59th percentile), both of which would be
career-bests across an entire season. Throughout his first 17
games, those marks were 22.1% and 14.0% respectively." That's some
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