After the Al Horford trade became official, many pondered how he would be used within the Boston Celtics rotation. With Robert Williams signing a four-year, $54 million extension this summer, many penciled him in as the starting center with Horford backing up the fourth-year big man.
As time went along and a rested Horford came into training camp, the narrative began to change, and it looked like the “Double-Bigs” lineup would be making a return. First-year head coach raved about Horford during his media availability, noting how fresh he looked and how he has already impacted the locker room.
The Boston Celtics look to be favoring a starting lineup that features both Al Horford and Robert Williams
Even Horford didn’t shy away from the conversation, adding how he felt as a competitor he wants to start.
It wasn’t until preseason game number two until we saw Horford step into the starting five, as it was Juancho Hernangomez getting the nod in the opener with Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Williams.
Udoka warned fans and the media to not look too much into the starting lineups during the preseason, as he wanted to get a feel for different lineup combinations.
While COVID has restricted Boston from getting a real look at what their opening night lineup may look like, we have gotten a glimpse at what Horford and Williams can look like together in the frontcourt, and let’s say the early results seem promising.
The fit initially seemed liked it may log jam the paint a bit, but with Horford returning in his second stint with Boston a much-improved shooter, the floor spacing seemed to be just fine at least through one game.
Both Horford and Williams can be the most effective running offense through them in the high post. They may have to stager minutes a bit to ensure both get their opportunities to be playmakers, but they both play well off of each other and know how to make the right reads offensively.
Udoka has entrusted forwards like Tatum, Brown, and even Horford to push the pace off of defensive rebounds. Horford hasn’t shied away from this at all and has done his fair share bringing the ball up the floor.
Playing as a power forward has always been more of Horford’s natural position, and getting the opportunity to do so in Boston will give him the ability to be his best self.
We saw this experiment in Philadelphia alongside Joel Embiid and it certainly backfired. While there wasn’t much success with Horford at the four spot, Udoka did note that the 76ers didn’t use Horford correctly at times and didn’t exploit certain mismatches he had.
Robert Williams is no Joel Embiid. The Philly big man attracts tons of attention and is more of a low-post threat whereas Williams can space the floor some, although that mid-range jumper certainly isn’t consistent enough just yet, and is more of a rim-runner rather than a back to the basket player.
Williams is much more active as a screener and isn’t the first option on this Celtics roster. Both Horford and Williams are complementary pieces to the Jays and each other.
Defensively a lineup of Smart, Brown, Tatum, Horford, and Williams can switch anything, something Udoka has focused on early with his team. Offensively things need to be polished up a bit more, but that will come with time.
While Horford and Williams will most likely start together, it doesn’t mean they will be on the floor together at all times.
Chemistry makes the difference for the Celtics
Something that has been noticeable early on is the chemistry between Horford and Dennis Schroder. A scenario that makes sense for the early-season rotation is for Horford to be the first sub 4-5 minutes into the first quarter and then have him return to the floor for Williams and play him alongside Schroder. Getting Horford and Schroder on the floor together as much as possible is something Udoka and his staff should certainly prioritize.
Williams will also benefit from time as the lone big man. More touches in the high post and hopefully more opportunities to roll to the basket will get Williams into a rhythm. We haven’t seen much from Williams offensively this preseason, but he has been active in every other aspect of the game.
This can allow for Horford and Williams to both be used more extensively in lineups that feature just one big while also having the ability to play off one another when they share the floor. Getting a mix of single and double big lineups will allow the Celtics to play a variety of styles throughout one game.
Have no fear Celtics fans, this isn’t a frontcourt of Tristan Thompson and Daniel Theis. Horford and Williams are versatile and can play alongside one another without too much problem.
The verdict here is that Horford and Williams can coexist on the floor together, and if the Celtics want to play their best lineup to start the game, the frontcourt is Al Horford and Robert Williams.