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After failing to agree to terms on a new contract extension prior to the 2022-23 season, Grant Williams is set to become a restricted free agent after this season. It was reported earlier this season by The Athletic that Williams and the Celtics discussed a four-year deal in the $50 million range before the season, but were unable to come to terms.
It was later reported by Marc Stein that the 24-year-old forward would be seeking a deal worth up to $20 million annually. For a while it looked like Williams had overplayed his hand, as he found his minutes slowly decreasing throughout the season and was out of the rotation to start the postseason.
Williams has re-emerged as a key part of the Celtics’ rotation in the Eastern Conference Finals, though, and the spark he has brought to a team that desperately needs it could be setting him up for some widespread interest and a nice payday.
Williams’ minutes have fluctuated this postseason. He has been a healthy scratch for five games over the course of the playoffs, and has played under five minutes in three games.
Williams’ most recent DNP-CD came in Game 1 against the Heat, before he would get his opportunity in Game 2. Though the Celtics would wind up losing Game 2 and some foolish people blamed Williams for the loss due to “poking the bear” when he talked trash to Jimmy Butler, Williams provided a sense of fight and pride, especially on the defensive end, that the Celtics were severely lacking.
One quote from Ime Udoka a season ago has been front of mind when looking at how the Celtics have viewed defending Butler this series. Last December, when the Celtics were struggling, Udoka revealed some advice he gave to his team, specifically Jayson Tatum, about respecting their opponents too much at times.
“These guys aren’t your older brother, don’t treat them like that,” the ex-Celtic head coach said.
It feels like for most of this series, Williams is the only one who hasn’t viewed Butler in that sense, and the Celtics’ defense has greatly benefited from it. That was on display in Game 4 as Williams played some tough defense in Game 4, finishing the night with a steal and this huge block on Butler.
Williams’ work on the offensive end should not go unnoticed either. Though the Celtics finally got their threes to fall in Game 4, they have struggled mightily from three-point range. The Celtics, minus Williams, are shooting 42-of-140 (30%) from three this series, while Williams is shooting an extremely efficient 7-of-11 (63.6%) from downtown.
With Malcolm Brogdon totaling just 15 points on an ugly 5-of-20 (25%) shooting, Williams has stepped up for the struggling Sixth Man of the Year. In three games this series, Williams is averaging 11.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists while netting a plus-minus of just minus-4, which is not bad at all considering the team has lost three of the four games.
With the way Williams has been playing, it’s more and more mind-boggling that he was benched to start this series. The fourth-year pro deserves a lot of credit for his professionalism and willingness to stay ready and support his teammates despite the rollercoaster season.
“For me it’s a matter of maintaining perspective,” Williams said postgame. “You never know what your role might be one night, so you just gotta make sure that you prepare for whatever that is for your teammates.”
Williams deserves major credit for the sacrifice he has made for his team, and his actions both on and off the court could be setting him up for a big payday this summer.