Letting Grant Williams go leaves a massive question for the Boston Celtics

It was almost inevitable, and on Wednesday it became official: Grant Williams is no longer with the Boston Celtics with his future being in Dallas (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
It was almost inevitable, and on Wednesday it became official: Grant Williams is no longer with the Boston Celtics with his future being in Dallas (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

It was almost inevitable, and on Wednesday evening it became official: Grant Williams is no longer with the Boston Celtics with his foreseeable future being in the Lone Star State.

First, it was Marcus Smart, then it was Batman. Two positive, no-nonsense difference-makers that can have a significant influence on any locker room are out the door. The question has to be asked where the resoluteness defensively is going to come from with Williams out of the equation. The entire NBA world knows Mazzulla can construct a prolific offense, but it remains to be seen if an unyielding defense can now be created.

As reported by both ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Boston Celtics have agreed to a sign and trade that has sent forward Grant Williams to the Dallas Mavericks. Boston will receive two second-round picks and a 2025 second-round pick swap. The deal also includes the rising San Antonio Spurs who will obtain Reggie Bullock, and an unprotected Dallas pick swap in 2030.

The former Tennessee star has been speculated to have signed a four-year deal that will earn him $13.25 million a year without any options. For Mazzulla’s side, No. 12 was an energy lifter that was a positive influence both on and off the court. The money simply did not make sense. If Stevens were to sign the versatile forward to an extension, Boston would have moved into the second apron, meaning they would be financially penalized even more for continuing to go over the luxury tax.

The C’s talented coaching staff now has two forwards/wings on the bench at its disposal without counting the six-foot-nine Dalano Banton. Sam Hauser, who has the potential to play a more significant role for the green and white should see an uptick in playing time. The cost combined with Mazzulla’s hesitation during the season are both understandable reasons to let a player like this loose. This has to be part of a larger plan for Stevens who now has a boatload of draft picks including one first-rounder in which the team was sent in the Kristaps Porziņģis trade.

Williams is coming off an interesting campaign under Joe Mazzulla where he was rotated from in and out of the rotation during both the regular season and playoffs. He played in a career-high 79 games out of the 82, but the Texas native failed to make it into seven contests from October to May. His nearly nine points per game and 39% shooting from beyond the three-point line were one of the major reasons for the Celts’ NBA Finals run with Ime Udoka.

The Boston Celtics are going to need to find a way to replace Grant Williams’ flexibility and hard-nosed attitude

Though he was inconsistent at times during his four seasons in the Northeast offensively, his toughness was never questioned. During that Finals run, Williams step up when called upon, taking on the assignments of Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo. In 24 contests during that postseason, Williams was put in isolation 15% of the time, allowing just 0.61 points per possession. That is better than any rotationally player for the Boston  Celtics including Smart and Jayson Tatum who was put in isolation just as frequently as the former No. 22 overall selection.

Sure, Porziņģis will produce much more consistently on the offensive end, but there is no world in which he is going to put up those numbers when going one on one against some of the best players the basketball world has to offer. Al Horford is a defensive force, but due to his age, he does not possess the 3 and D upside that Williams does.

Someone is going to have to step up to the table. On the financial side of things, it is the best for the franchise, but when looking at the number of ways he can impact the game in addition to his character, questions begin to be raised. The staff loved him, his teammates adored him, and without him, the Boston Celtics would not have been able to maintain their identity at the end of the 2021-2022 campaign. The resources are still there for Stevens to make another move, but for now, while Boston saves some cash, its locker room lost a player known for taking on any challenge that comes his way.