On Sunday, the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics completed a trade centering around Jrue Holiday. As a part of the trade, Robert Williams is now a Blazer. With Portland looking to enter a rebuilding phase, there is a chance that they may be looking to flip Williams for even more assets.
And one of the teams that could be interested in pursuing a deal are our New Orleans Pelicans. But should they try and trade for Williams? We examine the argument for and against them trading for the big man.
The argument for trading for Robert Williams III.
We’ve talked about this all offseason long, but one of the Pelicans’ two biggest weaknesses as currently constructed is rim protection. And the skill that Williams (arguably) excels at the most is rim protection.
According to Cleaning the Glass, Williams was in the 87th percentile in block rate among big men last season. The best part is that was the lowest ranking of his career. Before that, he finished in the 96th percentile in each of his four seasons.
Along with swatting shots, Williams deters opponents from taking shots in the paint all together. Last season, he was in the 90th percentile in on/off opponent rim frequency. When he was on the floor for Boston, opponent’s rim frequency dropped by -2.8%.
Williams almost single-handedly changes the Pelicans’ rim protection situation overnight. And if you couple him with an elite switch big man like Larry Nance Jr., you have one of the best defensive center duos in the entire league.
The argument against trading for Robert Williams III.
As the old saying goes, the best ability is availability. And unfortunately, Williams has been sorely lacking in that department for most of his career.
Williams has never even eclipsed the 65-game mark in a single season. The Pelicans already have enough injury concerns to deal with. Do they really want to get involved with yet another player with a questionable medical history?
Plus, unlike the Celtics, they don’t have the defensive infrastructure to withstand Williams’ minutes restrictions or a potential prolonged absence from him if he did go down with another injury.
The bottom line.
Basketball is a game of tradeoffs, and transactions like these are no different.
In this situation, the Pelicans are sacrificing the stability of a player like Jonas Valanciunas (and some draft capital) to improve one of their biggest weaknesses. Basically, they are decreasing their floor to increase their ceiling.
The thing is, the goal of sports is to win the championship. And unless your floor is really high, you don’t win titles by having a high floor. You win them by having a high ceiling. So, in this case, I would recommend that the Pelicans do what they can to trade for Williams.