Calling Terrence Williams’ performance on Wednesday night a “revelation” would be an over statement. He didn’t do anything too spectacular (well, you could make a case for his rebounding. That was awesome), but he did play 17 minutes of mistake free basketball. That is something extremely valuable to a Celtics team who’s rotation is down to 6 guys and a wild card.
How valuable? By playing Williams, Doc Rivers was able to put another capable ball-handler/passer on the court, thus taking some pressure off Paul Pierce. It also allowed Rivers to reshuffle his rotation and give strategic rest to Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, and Pierce.
The phenomenon of Williams’ lengthened leash hinges on the “mistake-free” part of his game. On offense, Williams is allowed to do basically three things: 1) attack seams in transition; 2) stand in the weakside corner; and 3) stand at the top of the key while his teammates run simultaneous off-ball screens. That last one has to be the most fun for Williams. He actually gets to make a decision! Sort of. He gets to decide which wing player is more open for a shot or to make an entry pass to the screener-turned-post-up man. Given Bradley’s new-found ineptitude when it comes to making entry passes, the decision has gotten even easier for Williams: it has to be Pierce or Jason Terry depending on which one is on the floor. It’s not a bad gig, it’s just not very creative. Williams’ has the skillset to do more. Let’s explore how extending Williams’ curfew past 9:30 could really pay off for the C’s.
It’s a bit late in the season, for sure. That said, the Celtics do not have a pure point guard on the roster with a fully functioning ACL. Rivers has repeatedly made his intentions to make Williams a point guard known to any and all who will listen. William’s is no Rajon Rondo, but that doesn’t mean he can’t assume the Rondo Role in the “Basic” section of the Celtics playbook.
Take a look at the following examples from last year:
Here Rondo passes to Garnett, circles back around to up-pick Pierce’s man, leaving Pierce wide open for a layup. This play is a bit problematic when playing the Knicks given their propensity for switching every screen. Although, when you consider that Garnett would be dragging the Knicks only rim protector (Tyson Chandler) out to the perimeter and the Knicks wing defenders (outside Jason Kidd and Iman Shumpert) aren’t exactly world-beaters, this could be a very effective play for the C’s. At the very least, it beats Pierce setting up shop at the right elbow and trying to shoot over Raymond Felton or pass out of double-team.
Here’s another example of this play, just more simplified:
“More simplified” may itself be an oversimplification. It’s less moving parts, but it relies on Williams to be able to make that pass to Pierce for the layup. Rondo makes that pass look easy every time. The degree of difficulty isn’t exactly prohibitive for Williams, but it may be for Doc. Again, anything is better than Pierce at the right elbow.
Here’s that play, just from another angle:
Just another example of the greatness of Rajon Rondo. Rondo had a 7’2″ Roy Hibbert directly in his passing lane and he still gets the ball to Pierce. It was easy to forget plays like this when Rondo spent the early part of the season desperately trying to wrack up assists in the most inefficient ways possible. It’s important to remember the real Rajon Rondo. As I said before, Williams’ is no Rondo, but he is 6’6″ and has the ability to see overtop of many of his defenders.
This last play has less to do with Williams, but is just something that the C’s should be able to do but haven’t:
As long as Bradley isn’t making the entry passes and the C’s have the floor spaced well, they should be able to execute this with relative ease. So far, they haven’t been able to due to a combination of Bradley’s entry passes and the Knicks’ athleticism. If the C’s sharpen their execution, this play is there for when Pierce has Felton or Shumpert on him.
I’m a bit leery of expanding/changing the gameplan- especially after two straight wins – but then I think about how awful the C’s offensive execution has been and I’m okay with trying. It may seem trivial, but three out of the five games in this series have been decided by single digits. One or two well executed possessions could be a four point swing and more possessions that don’t completely rely on Pierce being a playmaker.