NOVEMBER 13: Williams underwent right knee surgery on Monday to reconstruct a torn ligament after he sustained a patellar dislocation., the team tweets. Williams is expected to make a full recovery for the 2024/25 season.
NOVEMBER 10: Trail Blazers big man Robert Williams will have to undergo season-ending right knee surgery, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. He’s expected to go under the knife early next week and to be fully recovered for the 2024/25 season, Woj adds.
Wojnarowski previously reported that Williams would require surgery, but said on Monday that the center’s camp and medical professionals were still discussing what type of procedure would be necessary.
The Athletic reported on Monday that one option would be a cleanup procedure with a two- or three-month recovery timeline, while the other option would be a season-ending procedure that would repair bone and ligament damage in Williams’ right kneecap.
It appears Williams will take the latter route.
It’s a devastating blow to a promising young player who has already been significantly impacted by health problems since entering the NBA as the 27th overall pick in 2018.
Entering this season, the 26-year-old had been limited to 209 of 390 possible regular season games in his first five years in the NBA as a Celtic. He’ll appear in just six of 82 in his first year in Portland.
In his healthiest season, 2021/22, Williams nearly averaged a double-double (10.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG) to go along with 2.2 blocks per night and a 73.6% field goal percentage.
Williams was part of the package that Portland received from Boston this fall in exchange for Jrue Holiday. According to Wojnarowski, there were some teams around the NBA hoping that the Blazers would put Williams back on the trade block prior to the 2024 trade deadline — an in-season move seems extremely unlikely now.
The Trail Blazers have one open spot on their standard 15-man roster that could be used to add more frontcourt depth. They have about $5.3MM in breathing room below the luxury tax line, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), so they could comfortably sign a free agent to a minimum-salary deal without becoming a taxpayer.
As Marks observes, Portland could also apply for a disabled player exception, which wouldn’t give the team another roster spot but could provide another cap exception to make a trade, signing, or waiver claim later in the season. If granted by the NBA, that exception would be worth $5,785,715, half of Williams’ salary.