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The battle of the 5, who will win it? Robert Williams, or Al Horford. Who should win it?
The Celtics have an interesting choice to make for who they want their starting 5 to be. They can choose from Robert Williams (otherwise known as the Timelord) or Al Horford. Both players have made a good case to be the starting 5, below are advantages and disadvantages for each becoming the teams starting 5.
Advantages/why Al Horford should be it
Advantage one/Al Horford: Consistency: The Celtics already know what Horford brings to the table. When they signed him in FA, they got a smart basketball player who can defend, score a little, and pass. He was arguably their most important player, and gave them consistent minutes. That is something that Robert Williams doesn't have, his production depends on how much he is being attacked by the smaller guards, and by bigger centers. It also depends on how many lobs he is able to catch, how many touches he is getting, in other words, Robert Williams doesn’t have. In addition, Horford can stretch the floor, and with spacing being so key to the game and should be a big part of the Celtics strategy key and very important. Although it isn’t fair to expect that Horford will be the same considering he is older, they probably expect 90 percent of what Al did. Horford should give them consistent minutes, and on a contending team it is really important to have players that can give that for them.
Advantage 2 Al Horford, stretching the floor: With the NBA putting a heavy importance on 3 point shooting, having 5 players that can shoot is big. It can stretch the floor and if they can bring their defender out to the 3 point line, it creates driving lanes. Al Horford can do that, and that is important. This makes it easier for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and others to drive, and Tatum is MUCH better at driving, then his below average midrange game. Tatum shoots under 35 percent from 10-16 feet, and 42.2 percent from 16-3 point percentage last year per Basketball Reference. This means that having the spacing will make him take less mid range shots, and more shots within 3 feet where he shot 73.5 percent last season per Basketball reference as well. This also allows Jaylen Brown to drive where he hit 70 percent of his shots also. Having Horford to help the spacing is key to helping the Celtics. It can create driving lanes and having the spacing helps everyone. In an NBA where 3 point dominant teams often do well, having 0 non-shooters really helps. Since Horford isn’t a non-shooter unlike Robert Williams who clogs up the paint, that is key for them.
Advantage 3: No targeting in pick and roll
Like I previously said, Horford is a smart player who knows where to be on defense, so his defense is good. Although he isn’t anything amazing, he is a solid switchable defender. He can hold his own against guards, and 5s giving him the ability to guard 1-5. Having someone who defenses pick on over and over again isn’t good, and can kill the defense (example Kemba Walker). For the Celtics, that player sometimes is Robert Williams. Williams isn;t a bad defender, however, he jumps at a LOT of pump fakes and has a hard time staying with guards. This makes him targeted for pick and rolls and players try to get screens to match up against him. It really helps that Horford can stay with guards better than Robert Williams, and in fact better than most centers in the NBA.
Disadvantages: The only real disadvantage to starting Robert Wiliams is what you lose in starting Robert Williams, what i will talk about next.
Advantages: Starting Robert Williams
1: Getting the energy
Robert Williams seemed really happy, getting his 4 year 48 + million dollar contract extension, and will want to show that he is worth it. For that reason, I expect him to play with more energy than he did last year, and he played with a lot of it. One positive from that was how he played with energy, and with his new extension I expect that to be better than last year.
2: Lob threat: Having someone like RObert WIllims who can be a good rim threat, and catch lobs is highly beneficial to their team. It can provide distractions for their stars, Brown and Tatum to score, and additionally it’s an efficient way of scoring. Having someone like Robert Williams who can do that is big for them and will help out in the future.
3: Trade value. I DO NOT expect Robert Williams to be traded, however, if he can start and play well then in addition to the endless potential he brings in a trade, teams know that they are getting security, that he can be a legitimate starter for them. If Brown and Tatum can't grow enough, or they just decide that they want a 3rd star, having your young guys having legitimate trade value would significantly help, and starring Rober Williams would help with that. The Celtics have given signs suggesting that they are going the 2 star route with the Horford trade and getting Richardson, making moves to further strengthen their bench. Having Robert Williams start can boost his trade value, and although it isn't super super important, it is definitely more of a positive then a negative.
4: Development time: Robert Williams has humongous potential, however, in order to reach that potential he needs legitimate potential. You're not getting that much better unless you play against others that are nearly as good, as good or better than you. He also needs more playing time. Playing as a starter would help him get both of those things, starters generally play more, and get tougher competition.
5: Rim protection: Robert Williams gives phenomenal rim protection, and it has been key for them. This makes offenses take harder shots, because they know that he is a top 5-10 rim-protector in the league. Having 1-1.5 blocks doesn't matter, that difference is really small, and the block doesn't matter. What matters is that the person who is trying to drive knows that they are trying to make it against a top 10 rim protector in the league. And when you know that, you're more likely to take the midrange shot, which tends to be less efficient than that shot near the rim, whereas against Al Horford, you're more likely to take the closer up shot since he isn't a great rim protector.
Conclusion: The Celtics have a tough decision, who will be their starting 5? Both players have a good case to be. Horford can give you a good all around game, is a smart basketball player and gives you the consistency thar Robert Williams doesnt. Robert Williams gives you the energy, rim protection, and is good for his development and trade value. We will wait to see who ends up winning the starting center battle.