Forsberg's Mailbag: Why a Grant Williams extension should get done originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The NBA season tips off in eight days. That means there’s one week left for the Boston Celtics and their three extension-eligible players to negotiate deals.
The potential for extensions has been a popular topic among mailbag readers over the past few weeks, so that’s where we start this week’s 'bag.
Get New England news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NECN newsletters.
A Jaylen Brown extension is almost certainly not happening because, after taking a discount to re-sign the last time he was extension eligible, Brown has a whole bunch of financial incentives to wait for a max-money deal further down the road.
Stream the Celtics all season on NBCSportsBoston.com or via the MyTeams App!
An Al Horford extension could be enticing if the 36-year-old wants some additional long-term security, but the Celtics, with a whole bunch of money committed to future seasons, might prefer to simply revisit Horford’s future next summer.
U.S. & World
If the C's win it all in 2023, these will be the reasons why
The real intrigue lies with Grant Williams. After being one of Boston’s most consistent bench players last season -- and shining in the early rounds of the Celtics' playoff march -- Williams is in line to cash in on his development. The question is whether he’d be willing to settle for current market prices, or bet on a bigger payday with another solid season for a title-thirsty team.
Entering his fourth NBA season, Williams is set to earn $4.3 million this year. If no extension is reached, the Celtics could extend a $6.2 million qualifying offer to make Williams a restricted free agent in the summer of 2023.
That would allow Boston to match any offers that Williams received from rivals but could also drive up his potential price tag.
What's the current market price?
The Celtics set a bit of a market last season when they extended Robert Williams III on a four-year, $48 million pact. Time Lord had logged three injury-plagued seasons to that point and hadn’t yet established himself as a surefire starter or Defensive Player of the Year candidate, which helped keep his price tag low.
Grant Williams has been a far healthier presence through his first three seasons but his ceiling is a little murkier. Can Williams eventually replace Horford as a frontcourt starter? Or is he more likely to stick as a sixth or seventh man with a hefty bench role on a title-contending team?
A couple of recent deals could further set Williams’ price tag. Larry Nance Jr. signed a two-year, $21.6 million extension with the Pelicans last week. In September, Dallas forward Maxi Kleber re-signed on a three-year, $33 million pact.
The market would seemingly suggest an average annual value somewhere around $11 or $12 million. Would the Celtics be willing to push that number higher? Is Williams willing to bet on himself to maximize his payday?
What happens next?
The Celtics have already committed $131.4 million to a six-man core of Jayson Tatum, Brown, Robert Williams, Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon, and Derrick White next season. The team is almost certainly going to be back above the tax line to field a championship-caliber roster.
With Horford’s final big-money year coming off the books, there’s a little bit of flexibility to add future money. The team is over the cap and would be limited in ways to otherwise add impact talent.
That's why we think there’s a good chance a Williams extension gets done before next Monday’s deadline. In three preseason games, Williams has showed an expanded toolbox and will be vital to this team surviving the early part of the season while dealing with frontcourt injuries.
The bottom line
Williams had a rough finish to the 2022 postseason run but proved his value with his defensive efforts in the first two rounds. There’s little reason to quibble if the two sides are even relatively close.
With something in the neighborhood of $12-13 million per season, Williams gets above-the-midlevel money and the Celtics get another core player locked up long term. That would also allow Williams to further focus on the 2022-23 campaign while eliminating a potential headache next summer.
We have seen the story lines about Jaylen Brown looking All-NBA, Sam Hauser filling it up, etcetera. I want to know what under-the-radar storyline will have the biggest impact on the season? — @T_MacDonnell
Very little feels under-the-radar with this team. Our three big questions entering the season are: 1) How does the team respond to early adversity, particularly with a new voice at the head coaching spot? 2) Does Robert Williams III look like his springy self when he returns to the court after his knee cleanup and can he stay healthy? And 3) Is Brogdon truly the missing piece that gets Boston over the final hump?
In the NBA, talent is ultimately king. And the Celtics have a whole bunch of it. Sometimes the biggest impact on winning is as simple as Tatum and Brown continuing to blossom as superstars.
With teams tanking for Victor Wembanyama, what opportunities are there for Celtics (to) snatch a solid backup big from a team that’s trying to lose? Who are the bigs from tanking teams that could be a good fit and become available? — @Smileyjogger
For as much consternation as there’s been around Boston’s big-man depth heading into the season, we’ve long suspected the team can better address any obvious issues further down the road. If teams are tripping all over themselves for Wemby, then there will be no shortage of potential bodies available via trade and buyout.
We can sit here and toss out a bunch of names but I think the Celtics need to see this team in action to identify the player type who can aid them most. Do they need another bruiser who can joust with Joel Embiid? Does the current big-man rotation hold up enough to make the wing position an area of greater need? The Celtics will leave enough roster flexibility at the start of the year to ensure they can fine tune closer to the trade deadline.
Do you see a world where the Celtics convert Kabengele to the 15-man, sign Luka Samanic to the two-way, and maybe sign Justin Jackson for wing depth? There has to be one more addition and Brad Stevens isn’t going to sign someone just to sign someone. — @CelticsFiles
It’s certainly a possibility. Remember that two-way players must have less than four years of NBA experience, which complicates exactly who you can funnel to those spots.
It might ultimately be easier to keep Mfiondu Kabengele as a two-way -- he still has 50 potential games with the parent team -- and fill a 14th or 15th spot with a nonguaranteed contract. There’s still two spots open for Boston to fill now and Noah Vonleh has made a strong case for one of them, especially with Boston’s lack of size.
Entering camp, we thought Jake Layman might snag the other spot but most of the camp invitees have been a little up and down in preseason play. Maybe how other teams trim down could impact Boston’s decision, too.
Two questions: Do you believe that Hauser has improved enough defensively to be a regular part of the rotation? Seems like his shooting would open up the floor for guys driving into the lane. Also, are you concerned that the turnovers still seem to be an issue? — @HansDancin
I think Hauser took steps last year but there’s still a ton of room for growth on the defensive end. We know that a singular skill set like 3-point shooting can open plenty of doors in the NBA but Hauser needs to make defensive strides to be the sort of player that can be on the court in a playoff series.
The good news for him is that he should play alongside a lot of talented defenders that can mask some of his deficiencies. As for turnovers, it's certainly a concern but the presence of someone like Brogdon is going to really help in that regard.