How Realistic Is It for Robert Williams to Win Defensive Player of the Year Next Season?
Robert Williams’ impact on defense is unquestionable. Even while dealing with a lingering knee injury, Williams had moments in the playoffs where it was clear how brilliant he could be on the defensive end if fully healthy.
Even with Williams’ injury history, he has +650 odds on DraftKings to take home the Defensive Player of the Year Award, the best odds going to Rudy Gobert at +550. When Williams is even remotely healthy, he’s one of the best defensive anchors in the league. However, injuries have plagued his career up to this point.
Any discussion of Williams winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award has to start with his health. In Williams’ four seasons in the league, he’s played in 174 out of a possible 308 games.
He’s dealt with countless lower body injuries, and it’s clearly affected his mobility on the defensive end. He was still effective in the Finals, but he was nowhere near his peak.
Currently, the Celtics don’t have as much backcourt depth, trading center Daniel Theis to acquire Malcolm Brogdon from the Indiana Pacers. They still have Al Horford, who seems to be getting younger. But if Williams were to go down, Horford would have to take on more of a defensive responsibility.
The Celtics have the ability to go small, but if they match up with a team that exploits that and Williams is out, they could be in trouble like we have seen.
The team still has the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Smart and good defenders like Jayson Tatum and Grant Williams, but Robert Williams ties the whole defense together and puts the Celtics on another level.
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The Glue to the Celtics’ Defense
Williams is the last line of defense. Plain and simple. If any player can get past the frontline, they are met with one of the most intimidating shot blockers in the league.
In the 61 games that Williams appeared in last season, he forced offensive players to shoot 52% when they were 6 feet or closer to the rim while also averaging 2.2 blocks per game. Those numbers are right on par with three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner Rudy Gobert.
To Williams’ credit, he did finish in seventh place with eight total points in this year’s Defensive Player of the Year voting. If Williams had been able to appear in more games, he would have undoubtedly placed higher.
Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo looked like he could win the award, but he only appeared in 56 games. While Smart, who won the award, appeared in 71. This may not come as a surprise to some of you, but the number of games played matters.
But again, Williams had the guts when it mattered the most to play in the NBA Finals, even though he clearly wasn’t in any shape to.
Williams will continue to be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. Still, if the Celtics have to manage his playing time, which they already have and will probably continue to do, it may be hard for Williams to garner any serious consideration for the award.
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