Celtics' Updated Payroll After Robert Williams' 4-Year, $54M Contract Extension

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVAugust 20, 2021

Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, April 11, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

The Boston Celtics didn't waste any time with Robert Williams as he entered the final year of his rookie contract.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed Friday that Boston signed Williams to a four-year, $54 million extension. Before the deal, the 23-year-old would have been eligible to enter restricted free agency in 2022.

For the year ahead, Williams is due to earn $3.7 million as the franchise carries the NBA's fourth-biggest payroll ($175.3 million).

Depending on the specifics of his 2022-23 salary, his new deal may not impact the Celtics financially to a significant degree.

According to Spotrac, they're projected to have a $174.1 million payroll, and that number factored in an $11 million cap hold for Williams. Assuming his contract is split evenly over the four years ($13.5 million annually), Boston's payroll would climb to roughly $176.6 million.

Williams' new contract comes after the front office handed Marcus Smart a four-year, $77.1 million extension.

The Athletic's Jared Weiss posited the Celtics may have been considering a possible pursuit of a marquee star such as the Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal down the road with that piece of business:

"The most conspicuous clue the Smart contract is pointing to a trade for a superstar is consummating the deal at summer league rather than right before the season. Because of the truncated offseason with the NBA Finals ending in July, the usual moratorium on trading players following an extension agreement has been shortened from six to five months.
"By getting the deal done on Aug. 16, or whenever the ink finally dries this week, the five-month waiting period will come in January and before the trade deadline."

That may have been a consideration with Williams as well since he'd presumably be a possible asset to include to land a superstar.

If nothing else, the Celtics don't have to worry about the unpredictability that can arise when a younger player is entering the end of his rookie contract.

Looking ahead to the 2022 free-agent class, the center position is a mixed bag.

Deandre Ayton probably isn't leaving the Phoenix Suns. Jonas Valanciunas and Jusuf Nurkic are experienced veterans with solid baselines, but neither is an elite big man. Serge Ibaka will be 33 when the 2022-23 season tips off. Tristan Thompson and Andre Drummond are too offensively limited to be the No. 1 option on a title contender.

Williams has made just 16 starts through three seasons, but he's averaging 19.0 points, 16.6 rebounds and 4.9 blocks per 100 possessions, according to Basketball Reference. If he shows improvement in 2021-22, then it wouldn't have been surprising to see a team testing Boston's resolve and throwing a sizable offer sheet his way.

Extending Williams now is a bit risky since he has yet to prove himself as a regular starter. But his contract isn't so cumbersome as to be unmovable in the event he struggles upon assuming a larger role in the rotation.