Celtics

The next Clint Capela? Plenty of parallels with Robert Williams

The next Clint Capela? Plenty of parallels with Robert Williams

BOSTON – On a draft night when there was very little drama, intrigue or surprises to speak of, the Celtics landing Texas A&M’s Robert Williams certainly qualifies as an unexpected pairing.

Williams was seen by most as a potential lottery pick (top 14). who might slip into the late teens.

But all the way to 27?

To have such a precipitous fall, there are likely factors weighed by NBA teams that passed on him that go beyond his ability.

Of greater concern for the Celtics, is how good can he be in Boston?

As far as the floor for him as a player, you can go in a lot of directions, from Stromile Swift, who was one of the bigger draft busts in recent memory, to former Celtic Amir Johnson, who has been a solid-but-not-spectacular pro for more than a decade.

In looking at current NBA players who seem very similar to where Williams is now, Houston’s Clint Capela in many ways mirrored the promise and potential problems that many see in the 6-foot-10, 241-pound Williams.

Here’s a look at five traits that give the Celtics reason to be cautiously optimistic that they may have landed this draft’s version of Capela:

Late first-round picks

Clint Capela was considered one of the best athletes to ever come to the NBA, from Europe. Despite some impressive physical traits, he slid down the board before ultimately landing with the Houston Rockets, who selected him with the 25th pick in 2014. Williams is talked about in a similar vein when it comes to having elite athleticism. And, like Capela, he, too, saw his stock take a draft-night dip to where he was finally scooped up by the Celtics at 27.

Rim-runners

The term “rim-runners” is relatively new to the basketball lexicon, but it has been around for a while and it really does matter. Players who can run the floor effectively not only create shot attempts for themselves, but also puts stress on a defense that allows the teammates of elite rim-runners to get great looks at the basket. As talented as James Harden and Chris Paul are, they benefit from Capela’s ability to get up court in a hurry. Williams has a similar skill to his game, but wasn’t surrounded by the type of quality shooters to which that strength of running the floor was on display enough. In Boston, he’ll make the guys around him better offensively by doing what he does best and that’s run the floor and, when given the opportunity, play above the rim.

Defensive Mindset

Since coming into the NBA, Capela has been a stabilizing force for a Houston team that has steadily improved collectively on defense. He has great timing, above-average length, and instincts at that end of the floor that has served him well. His 1.9 blocks per game last season ranked fourth in the NBA. Williams comes into the NBA with similar potential at that end of the floor. In both his seasons at Texas A&M, Williams was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. In addition, he led the SEC in rebounds (9.2) and was second in blocked shots (2.6 per game), despite playing just 25.6 minutes per game.

Bad free-throw shooters

When you fall as far in the first round as Capela and Williams, you know there are some warts to their overall game. The one thing both share unequivocally is a knack for not making free throws. Capela is a career 48.2 percent shooter from the free-throw line, but the good news for Rockets fans is he made a career-best 56 percent last season and has actually improved from the line every year he has been in the NBA. Williams has been just as woeful from the line. In his two seasons at Texas A&M, he shot 54.1 percent from the line, but that included last season when he connected on just 47.1 percent of his free throws.

Established, successful franchises

When the Rockets drafted Capela, they were coming off a 54-win season with a roster that included Harden, Chandler Parsons (when he was healthy), Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin (who like Parsons, was healthy then). So, he knew early on that by playing to his strengths – rebounding, defense, running the floor – he would be a contributor in a year or two. Williams is walking into a similar situation. Boston has established veterans ahead of him in the frontcourt, but the strengths of his game – rebounding, defense and running the floor – provides an element that Boston won’t get from anyone else. And by playing to his strengths, he’ll only enhance the success of a team that has already built to contend for an NBA title this season.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat live stream: Watch NBA game online

Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat live stream: Watch NBA game online

The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will clash at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday night in a matchup of Eastern Conference powers.

These are two of the five teams jockeying for playoff position from the No. 2 seed down to the No. 6 seed. The five teams in this range of the East standings are separated by only 2.5 games. The Heat are in a second-place tie with the Toronto Raptors at 32-14, while the C's are in fourth place at 30-15.

The Celtics don't have a signature road win this season, and Tuesday's game against the Heat is a great place to earn their first. It won't be easy, though. Miami is one of the league's best home teams with a 21-2 record on its own court. The Heat also have the second-best 3-point shooting percentage in basketball, so the C's will need to defend the perimeter at a high level to leave South Beach with a victory. 

Another factor going against the Celtics is injuries. Veteran center Enes Kanter already has been ruled out and star forward Jayson Tatum is doubtful to play. 

The Celtics lead the season series 1-0 after a 112-93 win in Boston last month.

Here's how to watch NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics vs. Heat, beginning at 7 p.m. ET. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.

HOW TO WATCH

Listen and subscribe to our Celtics Talk Podcast>>>

ANALYSIS AND REACTION

BEFORE THE GAME: At 7 p.m., Celtics Pregame Live presented by TD Bank gets you ready for the game with reports from Kyle Draper, Tommy Heinsohn, Brian Scalabrine, A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Forsberg, and Abby Chin. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AT HALFTIME: Tune in to watch a breakdown of the first two quarters on Halftime Live presented by Ace Ticket. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AFTER THE GAME: As soon as the game ends, tune to Celtics Postgame Live presented by New England Ford for analysis, commentary and player reaction. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream

Questions on our livestream? Get all your questions answered here on our Streaming FAQ.

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Forsberg: Kobe's impact on Tatum hard to quantify

That 617 Life Podcast: Honoring Kobe Bryant and his impact on the NBA

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NBC Sports Boston photo

That 617 Life Podcast: Honoring Kobe Bryant and his impact on the NBA

The death of Kobe Bryant stunned the sports world on Sunday and sparked a plethora of reactions and tributes to the Los Angeles Lakers legend around in the NBA.

It didn't matter whether you were a Lakers fan, a Boston Celtics fan, or a fan of any of the other 28 teams in the league. Regardless of whether you loved Bryant or hated him for being the villain against your favorite team, you had to respect him.

On the latest edition of the "That 617 Life" podcast, noted diehard Celtics fans Leroy Irvin, Shanda Foster and Cerrone Battle explained how their respect for Bryant went far beyond the C's rivalry with the Lakers.

Irvin discussed how he and Celtics fans everywhere had to dislike Bryant throughout his 20-year NBA career, but everyone in Boston had the utmost respect for him as a player.

Deep down inside, we respected him. Just on the surface, we didn't acknowledge it. We didn't want to acknowledge it. But deep down inside, we knew what he meant to the game. And that hurt a lot.

Bryant was 41 years old, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna also was involved in the helicopter crash along with seven other victims.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Foster lamented the tragic loss of a legendary figure, his daughter, and seven others who were taken far too soon.

At the end of the day, he's a legend. And no one ever wants to see a legend gone before their time. It's always tragic. It's always traumatic, but when it's way before their time it's more tragic. And I'm not even adding into the fact his daughter was there and, you know, the additional victims of this.

Battle added to Foster's takeaway, noting how the Bryant family's tragedy hits close to home.

I think part of the emotion was, dude, he was the same age as me and you. He was 41 with four kids. I'm soon to be 41 with four kids and a wife.

Forsberg: Kobe's impact on Tatum hard to quantify

There's more Kobe Bryant discussion where that came from in this week's episode of "That 617 Life" podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast network. Click here to listen and subscribe.