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Can Grant Williams revive the lost art of the long outlet pass?

Before my readers get in an uproar, in no way am I comparing the talent levels of Celtics rookie, Grant Williams, with Hall-of-Famer, Wes Unseld, the greatest outlet passer of all time. Rather, I am suggesting that I see some similarities in their skills and their game. I start with their size - Grant at 6'6" (without shoes) and 235 pounds - and Wes at 6'5.5" (without shoes) and 245 pounds, although he was often incorrectly listed at 6'7" (per Wikipedia):

Famed for his rebounding, bone-jarring picks and ability to ignite a fast break with his crisp, accurate outlet passes, (Wes) Unseld made up for his lack of size with brute strength and sheer determination. In 984 NBA games – all with the Bullets – Unseld averaged a double-double, with averages of 10.8 points and 14.0 rebounds per game, as well as 3.9 assists per game, averaging over 36 minutes played per game.


Wes was the best, but there were others that could snag a rebound or steal the ball and then send a long pass skyward-and-on-the-money for an easy score at the other end. Bill Walton, Bill Russell and Larry Bird were adept at the art form, as are Lebron James, Nikola Jokic and Kevin Love today. Celtics rookie, Grant Williams, may end up in that company sooner than later, at least as far as the outlet is concerned.

Unseld also had a nose for the ball, both on offense and defense. And he was tough - feared, in fact, by many opponents. The following is a comparison of the per-36-minutes stats of both players - Unseld's from his entire career, Williams' from the last five games (all wins) in which he has see increased minutes

Grant: 13.6 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.7 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 61% FG

Unseld: 10.8 PPG, 14.0 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 51% FG


GWill is physically strong, but I doubt he will end up with Wes' brutish power. And Unseld gets the nod on rebounding, but frankly he outrebounded almost every opponent. With increased minutes, we expect to see double-doubles in points and boards from GWill. It is in the outlet department that I see the major similarity. Like Unseld's "crisp, accurate outlet passes" Grant has it down right out of the gate as a rookie, and he will only get better. On the subject of "bone-jarring picks", Grant is learning fast. And I give both players plaudits for their tough defense. How about outside shooting? Wes never had a reliable outside shot, but Williams has finally found his range from deep.



The crisp outlet pass has many merits:

A ball in the air travels faster than a ball on the hardwood.

It is an energy-saving maneuver, requiring only one offensive player to run the length of the court, and the defense stays put when opponents get possession.

When it is successful, it motivates players to fast break when their teammate snags a defensive board or makes a steal.

It is an exciting play that can ignite a run.


In GWill's last game, a win over the Orlando Magic, his per-36-minutes stats show: 21.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 3.3 blocks. His shooting percentages show: 83% from the field, 75% on 3-pointers. Mighty small sample, I realize, but Wes Unseld averaged those 36 minutes/game, and those numbers are seen above. We may not be seeing the next coming of Wes Unseld, but Grant is doing damn well for the 22nd pick in last June's draft.

Follow Tom at @CelticsSentinel, @CausewayStreet and Facebook













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