You just knew Trader Brad wasn't going to miss out on the action. Instead of making a deal on deadline day like he did last year, the Boston Celtics have been reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski to have added depth in the frontcourt from a ball club seemingly out of the postseason picture. Woj reported that the ex-Michigan State standout Xavier Tillman Sr will be heading to New England in exchange for Lamar Stevens and two second-round draft picks.
The Memphis Grizzlies now have five more second round selections from this deadline, locking down three via the Steven Adams deal that became official on February 2.
Tillman Sr has spent his entire professional career with the Grizzlies after being sent to Tennessee on draft night by the Sacramento Kings. Under Taylor Jenkins this season, the ball club's No. 2 has started in 13 of the 34 contests in which he had competed in. The Michigan native averages six points per game this year to go along with a career high in steals, assists, and blocks.
With Stevens in the agreement, the salaries match on both ends, meaning Boston will still have the entire Grant Williams TPE to play with. Tillman is most likely a rental as Boston aims at finally hoisting that 18th Banner into the TD Garden rafters.
What is really important to note is the fact that the forward/center possesses postseason experience. In fact, Tillman started in all six games in the first-round playoff series last year against the L.A. Lakers. In Memphis' Game 2 triumph, Tillman netted a team-high 22 points (10-13 from the field) in addition to snatching 13 rebounds, five of them on the offensive end. At 6-foot-8, Memphis' now ex-No. 2 is by no means limited to defending just bigs, showing an ability to match up against perimeter threats as well. He'll compete with Luke Kornet for minutes, strengthening Boston in the rebounding and rim protection department.
Offensively, he may not bring much outside the painted area. Some will be worried about his career 26 percent three-point percentage, but that won't be his job. We'll see Tillman be used in a lot of screen and rolls and flashes into the high post, something he thrives in given his high basketball IQ. Keep an eye on him in the short roll, especially with his confidence and the kind of unselfish guards Boston has. His offense has taken a dip this year, but hopefully a change a scenery helps to bring those percentages back up.
Xavier Tillman brings grit, toughness, and athleticism off bench, providing vital depth in Boston Celtics' frontcourt
The versatile big man has not played so far this month due to a left knee injury that is not reported to be too serious. The logic is quite evident for Boston. With Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis on the injury report more often than Boston would like, Tillman provides that insurance policy. Not only is he someone for the rest of the regular season, the ex-Spartan can serve a role in the postseason if needed. His strength and high motor on the defensive end may come in handy against Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
As someone who knows when to make that extra pass, Tillman will fit right into this green and white army. This may have been what Stevens was hinting at as the "big wing" he was talking about. Though, that's not exactly his position, the versatility of the 2019 Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year allows Mazzulla to play small much more often if he chooses.