Grant Williams holding up 3 fingers on both hands

2022 Awards Series Sixth Man of the Year: Grant Williams 

It’s awards season at! We’re handing out six awards over the next week as we roll through this year’s Awards Series. We may not have trophies or acceptance speeches, but we do have some top-flight Celtics performances to outline. Here we go...

Grant Williams was high on our list for several awards this season. He made a case for Most Improved Player and for Sharpshooter of the Year, but ultimately, we felt that he was the perfect choice for our Sixth Man of the Year. 

In his third NBA season, Williams took leaps in all aspects of his game, which allowed him to become Boston’s most reliable bench contributor throughout the 2021-22 campaign. He tallied career high marks of 7.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks per game, while making a team-high 77 regular-season appearances, including 21 starts.  

Williams also demolished his previous high shooting percentages across the board. Prior to this season, he had shot 42.6 percent from the field, 32.0 percent from 3-point range, and 65.7 percent from the free-throw line for his career. Rookie head coach Ime Udoka’s first assignment for the 23-year-old was to improve each of those numbers. 

Williams got to work and exceeded all expectations by flirting with a 50/40/90 season. 

The 6-foot-6 forward wound up shooting 47.5 percent from the field, 41.1 percent from long range, and 90.5 percent from the foul line, making him just the second player in team history to reach those marks in a single season. The other? Larry Bird in 1987-88.  

To have that type of consistency coming off the bench was crucial for the Celtics, as it took some of the offensive pressure off of go-to scorers Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. 

Williams also provided intangible attributes that didn’t show up in the box score, such as his endless energy and constant communication. He was the spark plug that boosted the bench and he also helped to set the defensive tone with his fearlessness and willingness to guard any type of opponent from role players to superstars. 

In the Playoffs, he yearned for those moments to step up against the opposing team’s best player. He took on Kevin Durant in the first round, Giannis Antetokounmpo in the second, Bam Adebayo in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Draymond Green in the NBA Finals. He had his moments against each of those players – most notably against Durant, who was held to just 38.6 percent shooting in the Nets series. 

Williams saw most of his numbers jump during the postseason, as averaged 8.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game, while seeing his minutes climb from 24.4 to 27.3.  

He also did an impeccable job filling in for injured center Robert Williams, stepping into a starting role for five straight games during the Bucks series. 

Williams was the Game 7 hero against Milwaukee when he poured in a career-high 27 points, while tying Stephen Curry’s Game 7 record with seven 3-point makes. 

In that series alone, Williams averaged 10.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He also made 17 3-pointers across the seven games, which was two more than any Bucks player made during that span. 

Right from the start of this season, after making 9-of-13 from deep through his first three games, it was clear that Williams was about to take a giant leap. He was Boston’s best bench scorer, its top all-around shooter, and the most durable player on the team. He was also the go-to guy if the Celtics ever needed a frontcourt spot-starter, which he proved when he helped to lift them past the defending NBA champions and into the Conference Finals. 

In essence, Williams was the definition of a true sixth man.