Boston Celtics: Hartwell’s mock projects Cs taking “skinnier Jayson Tatum”

Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

The ship has been righted, and the Boston Celtics–winners of six of their past seven contests–are now in the driver’s seat to claim the #4 seed in the Eastern Conference.

New York and Atlanta are both neck and neck with the Cs, but only Boston has the benefit of having two game-altering stars on their side in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Hardwood Houdini is pumping the brakes on grouping either John Collins or R.J. Barrett in the same class as the Jays, Trae Young, or even first-time All-Star Julius Randle.

That said, there are still three teams that I’d think twice betting my life savings on the Celtics against at the top of the conference. As impressive as Boston has been during this stretch, they still own a 2-7 record against the east’s elite (Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Milwaukee).

Luckily, the Cs have time on their side. Brown is just 24 years old, while Tatum is only 23. Danny Ainge still has plenty of time to craft a contending roster around the All-Star duo, and as someone who has always refrained from cashing in his trade chips on a blockbuster acquisition, he has plenty of draft picks to use on potential role players to supplement the presence of his stars.

This coming July will offer the first chance to do so and NBCSports Boston’s Darren Hartwell’s 2021 NBA Draft projection sees the Cs taking a scoring forward out of Stanford with a familiar offensive profile to Boston’s current top dog:

"18. Boston Celtics: Ziaire Williams, Forward, StanfordAge: 19Measurables: 6-foot-8, 185 poundsAt just 185 pounds, Williams is built like a skinnier version of 2017 Jayson Tatum (6-foot-8, 205 pounds). He had an up-and-down season at Stanford (7.4 points per game over his final seven contests) that may hurt his draft stock, but if he bulks up and hones his shot, he could be a potential steal for a Celtics team that could use wing depth behind Tatum."

Ziaire Williams started off the year hot in non-conference play for the Cardinal, dropping 29 points in Stanford’s first two matchups of the year against Alabama and UNC. Particularly in a win over the eventual SEC Champion Crimson Tide, Williams flashed an efficient midrange game while knocking down three of his five 3-pointers.

His game fell off after that, with a particularly rough third non-conference outing against Indiana–who, side note, did not offer Brad Stevens $70 million to be the new Hoosiers HC–and his stock took a bit of a hit.

Conference play wasn’t particularly kind to Williams, who finished with a averages of 10.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists on a meager 37% shooting from the field in 2020-21.

What’s more important than seeing how Williams’ middle of the road Pac-12 outfit fared (the Pac-12 was perhaps the NCAA’s toughest conference in 2020-21) is assessing his fit on an NBA franchise.

More relevant to Hardwood Houdini is his Boston Celtics fit. He appears to be a snug one.

Williams has the ability to score off the dribble and has quite a bag of tricks to unleash on opponents as he sets up getting his launch spots. His step-back and side-to-side shooting profile is what has Hartwell comparing the freshman to a certain former 2017 #3 draft selection.

Now, while the Cs could stand to fortify the middle or the point guard room, but the Jabari Parker signing showed us how shallow the wing depth was for Boston. And while Parker has had a strong start to his Celtics career, the injury prone former #2 pick isn’t likely the long-term solution on the wing behind the Jays.

Williams could be, and if he falls far enough on draft night, Danny Ainge may be able to find the next Jayson Tatum…while the current Tatum is still on the roster.

Next. Sharife Cooper-Cs second unit a glove fit for each other. dark