Celtics

Grant Williams, Celtics couldn’t agree on new extension. What happens now?

Williams will become a restricted free agent after this season.

Grant Williams
Grant Williams at practice on the first day of Celtics training camp. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

On Monday, Grant Williams and the Celtics officially failed to come to an agreement on a contract extension, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski — joining a lengthy list of players drafted in 2019 who will become restricted free agents in July.

Williams, P.J. Washington, Cam Johnson, Matisse Thybulle, and Rui Hachimura all will head to restricted free agency next season, per several reports. DeAndre Hunter, meanwhile, snuck a $95 million extension under the wire — a surprisingly high number for the versatile wing.

Perhaps more informatively, Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke reportedly agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal on Sunday — a move that might establish a floor for Williams. Clarke is a somewhat similar player, but he doesn’t offer all of Williams’ floor-spacing.

This was always the likeliest outcome. Williams is a highly useful role player who has improved steadily throughout his career, but the Celtics have their core for the future locked up already, with long-term deals for Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Robert Williams.

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Grant Williams could be a part of that core coming off the bench (or maybe even in a starting role at some point), but the Celtics likely felt very little urgency to hand Williams a big bag of money prior to this season. Teams often worry about letting stars get to restricted free agency, but a player like Williams isn’t quite that caliber.

Other motivations may have been at work as well. The Celtics expect to be a potential championship team this year, but sometimes even championship teams need an infusion of talent midseason. Williams will be solidly in the Celtics’ rotation, but he would provide a lot of trade value given his defensive versatility and 3-point shooting, as well as the restricted free agency rights the Celtics would be dealing in a potential trade if they find themselves in need when the deadline rolls around.

Of course, that versatility and 3-point shooting — as well as those restricted free agency rights — are all reasons the Celtics would probably like to keep Williams around for a while. They can do exactly that next offseason by either agreeing to a deal or matching whatever offer sheet another team makes him. The Celtics had all the leverage, and by waiting to offer Williams a deal, they maintained that leverage into the offseason.

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Williams simply found himself in a tough spot trying to negotiate with the Celtics at this stage. He’s too good to take a big discount and lock in long-term security, but the Celtics simply didn’t have a compelling reason to offer him an extension, no matter how much he continues to improve.

Williams impressed coaches and teammates in the preseason.

“He’s been working,” Al Horford said last week. “… Grant’s a very smart player. He continues to just grow and learn. But it’s pretty cool to see him — you can tell he’s been working, and he wants to show it. He wants to show different things and it’s good to see that.”

Interim head coach Joe Mazzulla noted how comfortable Williams looks.

“He’s doing a great job, doing a great job screening, doing a good job offensive rebounding, doing a good job making the right play,” Mazzulla said.

Williams can still have a lengthy, lucrative career with the Celtics if that’s what he wants. He will just have to wait — and continue to perform well — for a little bit longer.

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