The Boston Celtics acquired forward Xavier Tillman in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday afternoon, sending two second-round picks and Lamar Stevens in return.
With the late addition of Stevens to the trade, Tillman will come to Boston on a matching salary, leaving Grant Williams' $6.2 million TPE untouched. The Celtics will also maintain their open roster spot.
With Williams' TPE still on the table, NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg hinted at the possibility that the acquisition of Tillman may just be the tip of the iceberg for Boston as they head toward the trade deadline.
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"[Tillman] is going to have an opportunity to spell for Kristaps Porzingis and Al Horford," Forsberg said on NBC Sports Boston's Arbella Early Edition. "When you go watch the tape -- it's intriguing -- he's not very big, 6-foot-8, but he's long, he's active, he's going to look a lot like Al when he's out there on the floor with the way that he plays."
While the trade certainly won't break the internet, it's exactly what the Celtics reportedly wanted -- a player who will bolster their bench. Tillman had been a key rotation player for the Grizzlies this season, averaging 6.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.2 steals and one block in 20.6 minutes per game. While he will likely play fewer minutes in Boston, he could play a vital role in giving an aging Horford and injury-prone Porzingis much needed rest down the stretch of the regular season -- Boston is still scheduled for five more back-to-back games.
"He's switchy," Forsberg added. "There were some clips I was going through where he is playing against [Nikola] Jokic and [Jamal] Murray and is able to switch on to guards and hold his own and move his feet and block shots. He got into it with Kyrie [Irving], so that alone is going to endear him to Celtics nation."
With the starting five of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick White, and Jrue Holiday accounting for most of Boston's scoring, Tillman can shine as a defensive-minded rotation player. The fourth-year forward from Michigan State could easily fight for minutes within the key depth rotation of Horford, Sam Hauser, and Payton Pritchard, likely taking minutes away from Luke Kornet and two-way player Neemias Queta.
"I like the move, but I'm just wondering if there is another shoe to drop because they kept the powder dry with that Grant [Williams] traded player exception," Forsberg added of Wednesday's trade.
Forsberg went on to mention that, along with the TPE, the Celtics still have some more draft picks to play around with. While noting that Brad Stevens already did a great job in making offseason splashes in acquiring Holiday and Porzingis, Forsberg says that since Banner 18 feels so close, it may be time to go all out.
"I'm left yearning for spots seven and eight [on the bench]," Forsberg added. "That's no disrespect to Sam Hauser or Payton Pritchard, but I just wonder -- a guy like Alex Caruso -- do you put two first-round picks on the table to upgrade that spot? That's a lot for Alex Caruso, but it's a benefit to the future as well, and this feels like Boston's last chance to really make a big swing.
"I'm eager to see if Brad is willing to be a little bit more bold here, and I'm absolutely being greedy because he's already been bold. When you're this close, I don't want to feel like I did in 2022 where it was, 'Man, we were one player away. Man, if Rob [Williams'] knee was just a little healthier' -- don't make me feel that way."
Should the Celtics not make another move ahead of Thursday's trade deadline, they could always look to convert Queta to a standard deal to fill the final roster spot -- the Portuguese big man has impressed in every showing, giving Boston a defensive-minded rim protector off the bench.