What Trevion Williams brings to the Boston Celtics

What Trevion Williams brings to the Boston Celtics

Trevion Williams was in many ways always a unique fit in the college game. Physically, he was a brute – a pounding, imposing, throwback big man who never shied from contact. At the same time, he spent years trying to lose weight and aspired to be more than a back-to-the-basket center, even if it wasn’t necessarily convenient.

Now, after four productive, albeit fluctuating years at Purdue, Williams will see if or how he will fit in the NBA. He went undrafted but accepted a deal to play for the Boston Celtics summer league team.

Williams’ value is dependent on how you frame it.

As a college junior, he ranked first nationally in percentage of shots taken, second nationally in usage rate and led the Boilermakers in assist rate. He either scored out of post-ups or passed out of double and triple teams. All roads ran through him, especially in late-game situations. He was named first-team All-Big Ten as a junior, averaging 15.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. He was one of only two high-major players in the country with at least 900 points, 600 rebounds and 125 assists.

Williams declared for the draft that offseason. No matter what, for all intents and purposes, this was about as high as his value was ever going to be. By all measures —stats, accolades, all that – his stock wasn’t going to get much better.

Williams opted to run it back for his senior year at Purdue, though. That was despite the fact that he was never going to increase his production. Purdue needed to lean into Jaden Ivey’s talent and increase Zach Edey’s production. Matt Painter wanted to pursue better balance. With that, Williams went from the piece to a part. In the preseason, Painter suggested Williams might play minutes as a four alongside Edey, but that never particularly evolved, in part, because Williams is absolutely a center.

As a senior? Williams played his fewest minutes since his freshman year, averaging only 20.1 minutes per game, five fewer than as a junior. Edey, the Boilermakers ‘7-foot-4 behemoth, was the starter, and Williams’ numbers dipped to 12.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He averaged a career-best 3.0 assists. He won the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award while making third-team All-Big Ten.

Maybe if Purdue’s year had gone as planned, Williams’ draft profile would be a little brighter. It once looked like his decision to play a fourth year of college ball was going to pay off with a Big Ten title and a Final Four trip. Purdue was the No. 1 team in the country entering December. But things went awry with the Boilers missing out on a league title, losing in the Big Ten Tournament title game, and losing to Saint Peter’s in the Sweet 16.

So, on paper, this is a four-year college player who played as a reserve in his senior year.

In reality, there’s a lot more here. Williams is still only 21, and stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan. In an interview with The Athletic last year, he admitted, “Personally, I think my weight has always held me back. The skills have always been there, but I’ve had weight problems. ”

It’s been a long road, but Williams has gradually gone from 325 pounds as a freshman to his current weight of 265.

The question is, how much can he continue to progress, and can he outplay his assigned value as a prospect?

Williams brings some intrigue on the offensive end. He’s an elite passer. Not simply an elite passer as a big man, but as a passer, period. You can run offense through him in the high post (incredible vision and feel) and capitalize on his ability to find shooters from the low post. Williams has great hands and can convert near the basket.

Spacing-wise, Williams has to be defended away from the basket only because of his passing. He’s a non-threat as a shooter. He never shot better than 60 percent from the free-throw line at Purdue.

Defensively and athletically is where Williams presents questions, in terms of his ability to hang on in the league. For all his good footwork on the offensive end, on defense, he’s a liability away from the basket, both in drop coverage and on switches, and is generally a clumsy defender. Down low, he doesn’t have the bounce to defend the rim.

Williams has to continue to slim down and figure out how to improve his mobility and athleticism. Again, despite four years of college, he is only 21 and can still continue to change / develop physically. He feels like a known commodity, but he’s not a finished product.

Perhaps the best news is Williams, a Chicago native who spent his formative high school years in Detroit, has already outperformed his expected value once.

(Photo: Bill Streicher / USA Today)


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