The Boston Celtics’ Xavier Tillman bandwagon starts here

Xavier Tillman (2) comes from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Boston Celtics with a reputation for being a solid defender.
Xavier Tillman (2) comes from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Boston Celtics with a reputation for being a solid defender. / Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Not now, but maybe eventually, it’s possible you’re reading an article by the biggest fan of Xavier Tillman being on the Boston Celtics.

Sounds crazy, right?

We’re talking about an off the bench role player that probably won’t play every night because the Celtics are deep at every position.

But it’s the role that Tillman can fill, and how he filled it for the Memphis Grizzlies, that has me excited.

If Xavier Tillman is as advertised, he can be an X-factor for the Boston Celtics and their championship aspirations

As a reminder, Tillman was acquired by the Celtics, along with Jaden Springer, in two separate trades just before the NBA trade deadline. Springer is a developmental addition to see if he can fit in Boston in the future. Tillman is expected to play as soon as he’s fully recovered from a minor knee injury. His debut can’t come soon enough, as I had my eye on this kind of a role player for the Celtics for some time now.

Name anyone else that thought Purdue’s Trevion Williams being on the Celtics' Summer League team was the right fit. Name someone else who thought Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Daviswas the top prospect for Boston in the 2023 NBA Draft.

What are Williams and Jackson-Davis? High IQ, offensively limited big men that can be productive without needing the ball.

That is what Tillman is.

The book on Tillman says he’s a high energy, dirty work player. He can guard positions 1-5, is tough on the glass, is a solid passer, and sacrifices his body while going all-out on the floor.

Sounds like Tillman will have a few Tommy Awards in his future. The first hustle play Tillman makes that leads to points will get Celtic Nation behind him real quick.

So many championship teams had at least one guy that wasn’t an offensive go-to player, but habitually made hustle plays that shifted momentum. The 2007-08 Celtics had Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, but they don’t win that championship without Tony Allen.

It’s not a coincidence that the Celtics made the playoffs every year with Marcus Smart on the roster. His heart and hustle produced countless tide-turning plays from Smart diving for loose balls or critical defensive stops.

If Tillman has that kind of a dawg in him, the Celtics will be very thankful to have him. It’s about time that after the Grizzlies acquired Boston’s dirty work players on two occasions that Memphis gives one to the Celtics this time.

As talented as this Celtics team is, they lack an edge. TNT analyst Charles Barkley recently called out the Celtics for not being tough. Looking at the roster, Barkley has a point. Two players who provided toughness, Smart and Grant Williams, were both traded before the season.

Jrue Holiday and Derrick White are tough, but they don’t give the “hate to play against him” vibe. Tillman’s physical play all over the court could get under the opponent’s skin and frustrate.

I sure hope that’s the case. The Celtics could use a “villain” to get opponents mentally off their game. Tillman doesn’t have to be emotional and demonstrative following big plays, but he has to play with no fear. That includes not backing down from anyone, and be willing to get in an opponent’s face.

Now some might think the Celtics don’t need Tillman as a reserve garbage man. Well, a fully healthy Celtics won’t need him. But Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens got Tillman for when Boston will need him.

Al Horford already doesn’t play on the second night of back-to-backs. That’s an opportunity for Tillman. Kristaps Porzingis is having one of his healthiest seasons so far, but we know his history. That’s Xavier insurance.

Down the stretch, as head coach Joe Mazzulla rests his starters, Tillman could play a lot of those minutes, including for Jayson Tatum. And don’t forget if Boston gets into foul trouble in a game.

Now there are negatives to Tillman’s arrival. He could eat into playing time for Luke Kornet and Neemias Queta. But who wants more Kornet? And Queta may not be ready to contribute to a playoff run. The kid has great potential and seems worth developing, but he might be a year or two away from being a rotational player.

Also, Tillman is on an expiring rookie deal. So if he plays well, Tillman could cash in elsewhere after the season. But that’s OK. Stevens knew what he was getting into when he traded for Tillman.

If the end of the line for my Tillman bandwagon ends on a Duck Boat, then it will all be worth it.