Stein describes how contract talks between Williams and the Boston Celtics hinge on the forward’s ask of an annual salary of $2oM which can be found in his newsletter. The reports indicate a steep increase from where estimates were earlier in the season.
The Celtics have chosen to push Williams’ contract talks to the back burner with the second half of the season underway and focus solely on a championship run.
Williams is a restricted free-agent at the end of the season. If the Celtics retain him at the $20M price tag he has suggested, the team would undoubtedly be in line for a hefty luxury tax bill. That’s even before the cap sheet includes whatever money they are expected to give out to All-Star Jaylen Brown in 2024.
Is Williams Worth It?
Celtics fans saw what depleted depth looked like over recent weeks. Most evidently in the game on February 14th against the Milwaukee Bucks when all five of the regular starters were out. The third-year forward did suit up for the team though. Williams has averaged 8 ppg, 4 rpg, and 2 apg while shooting 46% from the field and 41% from three-point range in his fourth season in the league.
Williams’ skill set fits what the Celtics have tried to build in the last couple of years—a switchable, tough wing who can shoot spot-up threes efficiently. The Tennessee product’s most significant asset that he brings to the Celtics, arguably, is his defensive profile.
Williams possesses the duality of taking a beating from players like Giannis Antetekoumpo that dish out strong physical play with his 6’8″ and 240 pound frame. The three-year veteran is agile enough though to stay in front of smaller and quicker guards on the perimeter.
Williams has had to step into a larger role that involves playing more significant minutes and has continued to stay healthy. Dependable players like Williams are essential to keeping the Celtics system working especially with how the team handles their big men like Al Horford and Robert Williams with extra caution.
The Disease of More
Hall of Famer Pat Riley popularized the concept of the “Disease of More.” The disease is defined as when a team self-destructs due to individual desires after winning. Riley has numerous examples of great teams failing to have sustained success because, at some point, players on the team would start desiring more fame, recognition, playing time, and credit.
Payton Pritchard, like Williams, was a key part of Boston’s success last season. Pritchard gained experience on the brightest stage playing in the NBA Finals last year. The sophomore guard has seen a decline in minutes this year with the addition of Malcolm Brogdon. Pritchard seemed to be open about his desire for a trade in a post-deadline interview.
“It’s tough because as a competitor, you want to play,” Pritchard stated to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.
Williams and Pritchard may be expecting too much because of the talent above them which would be a somewhat cynical view by some. Williams stepped up to be a trusted playoff performer to his credit. The former Volunteer has already played in a whopping forty-six playoff games in his young career. This experience only adds to his value especially at twenty-four years old.
The case for the disease of more be may be a bit too premature at this point. The Celtics should remember however is that they might have made the NBA Finals last season, but they didn’t win it.
Williams will receive interest from other teams in the offseason. The Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, and Utah Jazz may potentially force Boston’s hand with an offer north of $20M. The fail-safe for the Celtics would be to explore a sign-and-trade with another team if they don’t want to budge. That maneuver would be similar to what they did with Terry Rozier in 2019.
A silver lining for the Celtics would be a strong performance to end the season for Williams gives him the incentive to produce in light of a potentially lucrative contract offer coming his way in the summer.
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