Boston Celtics

Brad Stevens explains how Xavier Tillman trade improves Celtics' roster

"He's a guy who we've liked for a long time."

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Boston Celtics didn't make a blockbuster deal ahead of Thursday's NBA trade deadline, but don't be surprised if their acquisition of Xavier Tillman proves to be impactful.

The C's acquired Tillman from the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday in exchange for forward Lamar Stevens, a 2027 second-round pick (via Atlanta) and a 2030 second-round pick (via Dallas).

🔊 Celtics Talk: Celtics add Tillman, Springer; Which rival should C's be most worried about? | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Tillman likely will make his most meaningful contributions to the Celtics on defense, where he excelled for the Grizzlies with his quickness, toughness and size (6-foot-7, 245 pounds).

"He can guard bigger guys, but he can also switch late in the clock," Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens told NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg in an exclusive interview Friday.

"He's not like way above the rim by any means, but he's way longer than people realize. So he gets his hands on passes, on shots, he's got a good impact in that way."

Tillman's defense is one reason why he's been on Stevens' radar for a while.

"He's a guy who we've liked for a long time," Stevens said. "I wasn't in this position when he came out of college, but I remember watching him with Michigan State, and I know what the responsibility of playing at Michigan State is like.

"So this is not unique (for him) to put on a Celtics uniform, especially with -- he's played on great teams in Memphis the last few years that went from fun teams, that fun story, to (a team facing) expectations. That's a big difference. And then having played in college where you go in and you're trying to get back to the eighth Final Four in 20 years, or whatever the case may be -- he gets that.

"So, he's always been a guy who we've thought, with his ability to move laterally with his size, with his physicality, with his thinking and passing, made sense on our team around our best players."

Tillman isn't a prolific scorer by any means -- he's averaging 6.0 points per game on 40.8 percent shooting this season -- but he won't need to be that kind of player for the Celtics given their great scoring depth. His role will be to defend, rebound and increase the physicality level in the Celtics' frontcourt.

"We didn't necessarily feel like we needed to add scoring to this group," Stevens said. "We feel like we've got a lot of scoring and a lot of shooting. What we need is some guys who can help us navigate some matchups."

Contact Us