Joe Mazzulla and Al Horford were both sky-high on the Boston Celtics' pre-trade deadline acquisition, former Memphis Grizzlies big man Xavier Tillman, on February 7.
“Skilled, toughness, well-coached, obviously we paid a lot of attention to him because of the team that plays for and the coach that he has, and I like his defensive versatility," Mazzulla said (h/t Inside The Celtics). "He has really good numbers against some of the top centers in the league. His pick-and-roll defense and movement is actually really good which gives us versatility at that position.”
Horford called Tillman a "benefit" and expressed excitement about playing alongside the former Michigan State Spartan.
"It’s definitely a benefit," Horford said of the Tillman trade. "We’re looking forward to having him here. He’s a guy that's played on good teams and understands how to play. I look forward to playing with him and seeing how he can help us down the stretch."
Xavier Tillman can help preserve Boston Celtics starters for the playoffs
Tillman's presence is Brad Stevens' gift to Horford and Kristaps Porzingis; a big man capable of giving both frequent breathers before the postseason begins. While he fits the non-game-changer profile that we were expecting the Cs to exclusively pursue by the deadline, Tillman does bring a game-changing ability to cover up for the team's top frontcourt talents in regular season games down the stretch.
Remember, the Celtics are running away with the Eastern Conference this season. There will be a time when it really doesn't make sense to play an aging Horford and perpetually injured Porzingis unless the Western Conference's top teams make up some ground in the standings themselves.
Tillman was a solid addition who didn't even cost the team the $6.2 million Grant Williams TPE, but instead two second-round picks and Lamar Stevens. It's likely he'll have more of an impact than 2023 trade deadline acquisition Mike Muscala.