Celtics make splash at the trade deadline, acquire Xavier Tillman

Players in this post:
Lamar Stevens Xavier Tillman

Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens keeps showing his brilliancy as the Celtics make a run for banner 18.

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

As of Wednesday afternoon, Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens added some insurance to the team's roster in hopes of winning their first championship since 2008.

Prior to Thursdays' NBA trade deadline, the Celtics acquired forward Xavier Tillman from the Memphis Grizzlies, in exchange for Lamar Stevens and two second-round picks. Tillman, a former Michigan State Spartan, was selected No. 35 in the second round of the 2020 draft. In his fourth season with Memphis, the 6'8 forward is averaging 6.0 points, 1.2 steals, 1.7 assists, and 4.6 rebounds.

Tillman was a reliable playoff starter against the lakers last season

In 34 games played,Tillman has started 13 of them. He made headlines last season, when he logged solid minutes against LeBron James and the Lakers in the playoffs first round. Throughout six matchups with Los Angeles, Tillman averaged 8.7 points, 6.3 assists, and 8.0 rebounds. He accumulated four steals and four blocks in six games. In two of those matchups, he finished +10 and +11 on the court, which is impressive for a fourth-year player with only three seasons of limited playoff experience.

In the deal, Boston will send a 2027 second-round pick via the Atlanta Hawks, and a 2030 second-round pick from the Dallas Mavericks to Memphis. By moving Lamar Stevens, the move creates a salary match for Tillman. Set to earn just over $2 million this season, Stevens will become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. Tillman's $1.9 million salary fits perfectly within the budget of the Celtics, keeping them in the second apron space.

In addition, the deal with go into the Celtics $6.2 Million trade player exception following the Grant Williams trade. With the exception, they are grants offering teams an additional way to sign players, according the Spotrac. With this move, the Celtics will have one roster spot open.

He's a strong, underrated defender

For the Grizzlies, they have been riddled with injuries all season long, including 13 players listed as out against the Celtics last Sunday. A 18-33 record, Memphis remains 4th in the Southwest Division, and owns the sixth worst record in the NBA. 3-7 in their last ten games, they will look to next year. This move comes after Memphis traded away center Steven Adams to the Houston Rockets, in exchange for Victor Oladipo and three second-round picks.

Currently hampered by a knee injury, Tillman hasn't played since Jan. 29 vs. Sacramento. Besides that, he immediately brings depth and defense to Boston. Ranking in the 99th percentile among defenders in the NBA, he should fit in nicely among the Celtics frontcourt. With that said, he is a solid screener, who's averaging one block and one steal in under 21 minutes played per game. He will fit in perfectly with Joe Mazzulla's culture, as a player who will hustle and contest plenty of shots.

While he hasn't been much of a difference maker on the offensive end, Tillman joins a C's team that rank third in defensive rating (110.6), behind the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers. Their defensive rating among forwards is third best in the league, and Boston is tied with Oklahoma City, for the most blocks per game (6.6). Holding opponents to 110.7 points per game, Boston remains in the top 10 in opponent paint points (47.6).

The Celtics add much needed frontcourt depth and strength

The Celtics have been seeking frontcourt depth, and Tillman nicely adds some insurance. Dating back to the 2023 NBA Draft, Stevens was meticulous in planning for the moment and the future. You have to give credit where credit is due, hat's off to Brad Stevens. He turned the 25th overall pick into rookie Jordan Walsh and four future second-round picks.

With Kristaps Porzingis limited by some injuries, Al Horford and Luke Kornet are to handle the duties when he's out. With Tillman, it gives Boston a much-needed addition in the frontcourt, along with Sam Hauser and Kornet. At times, the forward even played the center position when former Grizzlies center Steven Adams was out with injury.

Although he's a free agent in the summer, Tilmann gives the Celtics an extra body that can defender at a high level. With their eyes set on a championship, this proves why Brad Stevens is one of the best in the business.

At 38-12, the Celtics own the best record in the NBA, and he will join a full the frontcourt that consists of Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Luke Kornet, Neemias Queta, and Oshae Brissett.

The Celtics next host the Atlanta Hawks tonight at the TD Garden. The Grizzlies will host the Chicago Bulls on Thursday evening.


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