Jaden Springer’s impact and more Celtics post-deadline thoughts originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics didn’t make a big-splash move before Thursday’s trade deadline, but over the final 24 hours, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens tweaked his team’s depth with an eye towards the future.
The Celtics, via three different moves, brought in Xavier Tillman and Jaden Springer while shipping out Lamar Stevens and Dalano Banton. Tillman and Springer, with their defensive versatility and “stock”-heavy ways, will have a chance to state a case for depth roles but their additions could have longer-range vision given Boston’s need for low-cost depth pieces for a top-heavy roster.
After watching a flurry of former Celtics change teams, the Celtics slid in before the final trade buzzer and acquired Springer from Philadelphia for a future second-round pick. They maintained an open roster spot — which could factor into any buyout pursuit — by shipping Banton to Portland.
Springer lives up to his name. He’s springy and can fly around the basket. Just watch some of his blocks from this season:
The 2021 first-round pick (28th overall) is still only 21 years old and is under contract at $4 million next season.
Tillman is more likely to play a depth role given Boston’s need to rest players like Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis over the final 31 games, but Springer can win over head coach Joe Mazzulla with his defensive activity.
Maybe the most notable Celtics tie of deadline day was the team being validated in its decision to punt on signing Grant Williams to a long-term deal this past summer. The Mavericks surprisingly shipped Williams to his native Charlotte Hornets just seven months after landing him on a four-year, $53.3 million contract. Dallas will now find out if PJ Washington, who sometimes feels like a Williams clone but without the playoff experience, can be any better.
Old friend Gordon Hayward ended up in Oklahoma City. We love the move for the Thunder and maybe we’re a little closer to the Boston-OKC Finals matchup that we should have gotten in 2012.
Kelly Olynyk is headed to the Raptors. What a week for Toronto, with commissioner Adam Silver gifting our friends to the north a Scottie Barnes All-Star appearance, and then a native son returning in Olynyk. Former Celtics Marcus Morris, Evan Fournier, and Dennis Schroder all got relocated, too.
Maybe the biggest win for Boston: None of its rivals did anything that definitively tips the scale in the Eastern Conference. Yes, the Knicks added depth. The Bucks added some defense. But no one made the sort of splash that makes you any more fearful than before deadline day.
Here’s our off-the-cuff ranking of the five scariest rivals in the East:
The Patrick Beverley addition doesn’t move the needle all that much, but defensive beggars can’t be choosers. Milwaukee still has Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard.
So laugh at their woes now, even as Doc Rivers settles in as coach, but the Bucks are too talented to just outwardly dismiss. Their defensive woes are impossible to ignore and almost had us drop them to No. 2 here.
2. New York Knicks
Does depth matter when Tom Thibodeau is just going to play his top guys 45 minutes per game in the playoffs? The additions of Alec Burks and Bojan Bogdanovic provide some shooting threats around an already gritty team that sure looks like it’s ready for the big stage.
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The Knicks might deserve the top spot here, but we’re eager to see how them and the Bucks trend over the next month.
Buddy Hield can help the Sixers navigate Joel Embiid’s absence and the acquisition cost was minimal. Alas, the Sixers are only going as far as Embiid’s meniscus will carry them, and if he’s not 100 percent, it didn’t matter who they added. Plus, the Celtics love to pick on Hield whenever he’s defending.
Donovan Mitchell is terrifying, but the rest of the Cavs still have to prove they won’t wilt on the playoff stage. That five-game, first-round absence against the Knicks didn’t inspire confidence.
We could have slotted them as high as No. 3. They are cockroaches. But we couldn’t leave them off the list altogether, even if it feels like they’ve feasted on inferior competition to simply stay in the mix. Ask us again after Sunday. But, for now, we’d simply rather see the Pacers than the Heat again based on past experiences.
The Celtics can wait to see if any intriguing names hit the buyout market. Remember, though, that the team cannot sign anyone who was previously making north of the $12.4 million taxpayer midlevel.
The focus now should be on padding a lead atop the Eastern Conference with an agreeable schedule leading to the All-Star break. Things get more daunting into March, including a tough West Coast road trip, but Boston can pace itself by taking care of business over the next four games.