Thursday marked Brad Stevens' third NBA trade deadline since replacing Danny Ainge as Boston Celtics president of basketball operations.
Stevens took over for Ainge in what was seen as a stunning move in June 2021. The former C's coach had no prior front-office experience, so the transition left many feeling skeptical.
It's safe to say Stevens has far exceeded expectations since replacing Ainge. The Celtics have reached the NBA Finals in his first season as president of basketball ops and reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals a year later. The quest for Banner 18 continues, but Boston hasn't missed a beat since Ainge's departure. That's a credit to some of the outstanding moves Stevens has made over the last three years.
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With another trade deadline in the books, here's a look at the Celtics' deadline moves during Stevens' regime, along with grades for 2022 and 2023.
2022: Derrick White's arrival, Daniel Theis' return
Stevens' first deadline as Celtics president of basketball ops was a home run. In what turned out to be one of the best NBA trades in recent memory, Stevens sent Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, and a top-four-protected 2022 first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Derrick White.
White was drafted by the Spurs in 2017. He averaged 11.6 points, 3.9 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game in his career before the deal while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor (34.3 percent from 3) and playing outstanding defense.
On paper, that defensive prowess made him a solid fit alongside fellow defensive-minded guard Marcus Smart. He quickly ingratiated himself with the Celtics fanbase, far exceeding expectations and becoming a key part of Boston's core.
Now in Year 3 with the team, White has developed into one of the most well-rounded players on the roster. The 29-year-old earned All-Star consideration as an All-Defensive talent who's also capable of taking games over on the offensive end.
White's signature Celtics moment was his epic putback buzzer-beater vs. the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the 2023 Eastern Conference Finals. Boston came up short in Game 7, but White is an even more crucial piece of the puzzle this season as the C's look to get over the hump and bring home the elusive 18th banner.
Along with the White deal, Stevens shipped Dennis Schröder, Bruno Fernando, and Enes Freedom to the Houston Rockets for old friend Daniel Theis. Schröder, who signed a one-year deal in the summer, wasn't a great fit and Theis added some much-needed frontcourt defense. The German big man averaged 7.9 points and 4.7 rebounds in 21 games during his second stint with the C's.
Stevens also acquired a second-round pick from the Orlando Magic for P.J. Dozier, Bol Bol, a future second-rounder, and cash to get under the luxury tax.
Trade deadline grade: A+
2023: The Mike Muscala deal
Last year, Stevens traded Justin Jackson and two second-round picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Mike Muscala. That was the Celtics' only move ahead of the deadline.
Muscala gave the C's a frontcourt depth piece who could shoot the 3-ball. Ideally, he'd fill the void on the bench left by sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari's season-ending knee injury.
Muscala ended up playing in 20 games for Boston, averaging 5.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 47.2 percent from the floor (38.5 percent from 3) in 16.2 minutes. He was a non-factor in the postseason, though he wasn't expected to have much of a role in the playoffs to begin with.
In June, Muscala was sent to the Washington Wizards along with Gallinari in the three-way trade that shipped Marcus Smart to Memphis and brought Kristaps Porzingis to Boston. He was traded to the Detroit Pistons this season.
Trade deadline grade: C
2024: Welcome aboard, Xavier Tillman and Jaden Springer
Stevens bolstered the bench with a pair of moves ahead of Thursday's deadline. First, he acquired big man Xavier Tillman from the Grizzlies in exchange for Lamar Stevens, a 2027 second-round pick (via Atlanta), and a 2030 second-round pick (via Dallas).
Tillman, 25, is expected to give Boston rock-solid frontcourt defense. The 6-foot-8, 245-pounder was averaging 6.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game while playing 20.6 minutes per night in Memphis. He stepped up for the Grizzlies in last year's playoffs, averaging 8.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists over 30.6 minutes per game in their first-round series loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
"He can guard bigger guys, but he can also switch late in the clock," Stevens told NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg of Tillman 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."
Stevens struck again just minutes before the 3 p.m. ET deadline, acquiring guard Jaden Springer from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for a second-round pick.
Springer, albeit a guard, serves a similar purpose to Tillman. The 21-year-old was brought to Boston to defend. He won't wow anyone with his offensive prowess -- at least not at this stage of his career -- but he's already displaying his All-Defensive potential.
"We had followed Jaden for a while," Stevens told Forsberg. "Jaden went from a guy that I was interested in to a guy I was really interested in after our preseason game here when I saw him really defend, like really, really defend.
"So I watched him a little bit closer. The game against us (in Philly) was an interesting game, I don't remember that quite as well maybe. But we have been paying attention as we've gone into this trade deadline as he's been playing more, and the matchups he's had."
Tillman gives the C's much-needed frontcourt depth behind Porzingis and Al Horford. Springer forms a stellar defensive guard trio with White and Jrue Holiday while Payton Pritchard provides a scoring punch for the second unit.
Stevens wrapped up the 2024 deadline by sending guard Dalano Banton to the Portland Trail Blazers for a heavily protected second-round pick.
Trade deadline grade: Incomplete