Robert “Steal-of-the-Draft” Williams.
Williams, a 6-foot-9 forward out of Texas A&M, was immediately branded with that moniker by just about every analyst after the Boston Celtics chose him with the 27th overall pick. One draftnik went so far as to say the Louisiana native could “morph into an All-Star center capable of making a Jordan-esque impact.”
Alas, Celtics fans, the writer was referring to DeAndre of the Los Angeles Clippers, not Michael of the Hall of the Fame. There were concerns about his motivation and work ethic that most likely caused him to fall to the bottom of the first round, but Boston was more than happy to see Williams’s name still on the board at No. 27.
If the forward ever reaches the heights some believe he’s headed towards, Brad Stevens won’t mind being called a thief.
“He’s a really talented guy,” the Celtics head coach told reporters Thursday. “We felt very fortunate to get him tonight.”
Here’s what experts had to say about Boston’s decision on draft night:
Gary Washburn, Boston Globe
The Celtics wanted an athletic big man. He doesn’t need to contribute heavily next year. He just needs to develop into the rim protector and defender the Celtics need in the coming years. And that’s what the 6-foot-9-inch Williams will be, a big man whom the Celtics can mold while he doesn’t take up much salary cap space.
It was the best-case scenario for the Celtics, who pondered trading up for a swingman, and even had delusions of moving up to get Texas center Mohamed Bamba. But they stood pat and watched one of the draft’s most intriguing big men fall to them.
Mike Schmitz, ESPN.com
Along with [Lonnie Walker IV], Williams has the potential to be the steal of the draft at No. 27 — the same draft slot of a similar lob-catching, shot-blocking center in Clint Capela. While there are clear questions about Williams’s motor, the rangy big man is without a doubt a top-10 caliber talent when fully engaged.
He’s much more suited for the open NBA game than the role he played as a power forward with clogged paint at Texas A&M. Boston is the exact environment that Williams needs to rev up his focus and commitment to his craft. The Celtics also could really use a big in Williams’s mold, as he’ll be a tremendous lob threat for Kyrie Irving and the rest of Boston’s offensive weapons.
Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald
The Celts put themselves in essentially a no-lose situation by taking the 6-foot-10 protector and rattler of rims. He easily could turn out to be the steal of the draft. He could give the C’s the kind of large athleticism they need, and there is hope that he may develop quickly.
The fact he was projected so much higher meant the Celtics never got him in for an individual workout. But obviously those drafting ahead had concerns and didn’t want to take him higher, fearing the risk. But at 27th overall, there is no real peril for the Celts. If he works out, they will embrace their good fortune. If Williams doesn’t quite live up to his promise, hey, it was the 27th pick.
Jared Weiss, The Athletic
Now the Celtics head toward free agency with every piece of their carefully crafted arsenal in place, poised to wait out the San Antonio Spurs in their attempt to rectify the situation with Kawhi Leonard and his “group.” They pulled off the minor miracle of keeping all their pieces while still being able to make another significant step toward their future by taking Williams. They have one of the few missing pieces to round out their rotation and even more confidence to cash in their chips to pursue Leonard.
But more importantly, they held onto Terry Rozier, resisting the steep price of moving up toward the top of the draft that would have included Rozier, the 2019 Kings pick and likely the 2019 Grizzlies pick as well.
Jonathan Tjarks, The Ringer
It will be interesting to see whether off-court or medical concerns contributed to Williams’s slide, because there’s no reason for a player this talented to be available near the end of the first round. Williams is as physically gifted as any of the big men who went in the top 10. He’s an über-athletic 6-foot-9 big who could stay in front of even the fastest point guards. He’s not particularly skilled on offense, but he shouldn’t have to do much beyond set screens and catch lobs in Boston.
Reid Forgrave, CBS Sports
The Celtics get the defensive-minded, elite-rebounding big man they needed. He’s a great athlete who can defend in a lot of styles. Could he be the American Clint Capela? The “steal of the draft” label could be his.
Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated
This is great value for the Celtics, who might be getting a starting-caliber talent and do a good job developing players. Many teams were scared off by Williams due to concerns about his maturity and the interview process—there was a sense he’d fall, but perhaps not this far. Someone else’s risky investment is now a terrific flier for Boston here, and the Celtics will give him a strong environment in which to succeed.
Adam Fromal, Bleacher Report
Robert Williams can’t help but draw comparisons to DeAndre Jordan, thanks to his ridiculous upside as a rim-running center with extreme athleticism. He was a dominant pick-and-roll threat during his brief time at Texas A&M, the kind of player who required constant defensive attention—a different type of gravity than the Stephen Curry variety—because of his penchant for finishing plays in thunderous fashion if he received even the tiniest modicum of space while cutting toward the hoop. Let your attention lapse, and he could make you pay. Just for good measure, he also swatted 3.9 shots per 40 minutes.
Shooting range and a lack of discipline likely dropped him down the board, but that’s a risk Boston can be, and apparently is, willing to take. If he works out, he could morph into an All-Star center capable of making a Jordan-esque impact (we’re still talking about DeAndre, not Michael). And if he doesn’t, he can just slot in as a third-string center playing behind Horford and Theis.