Celtics Notes: Tillman Trade, Stevens, Queta

Xavier Tillman was exactly the type of player the Celtics had in mind when they accumulated second-round picks during last year’s draft in anticipation of eventually trading for a big man, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Boston cashed in two of those picks today, fortifying its front line by acquiring Tillman from Memphis.

Tillman provides the Celtics with a strong defensive presence off the bench for potential playoff matchups with the East’s best centers and power forwards. Weiss notes that he possesses the best qualities of the two backup centers the team has been using, combining Neemias Queta‘s physicality and Luke Kornet‘s basketball IQ. Weiss also points out that Tillman often initiated the Grizzlies’ offense from the elbow, the same way Boston does with Kornet. However, his poor shooting this season — 40.8% from the field and 22.6% from three-point range — may present a concern.

After tonight’s win over Atlanta, Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla talked to reporters about what he expects Tillman to bring to the team, tweets Souichi Terada of MassLive.

“Skilled. Toughness. Well-coached,” Mazzulla said. “Obviously we paid a lot of attention to him … I think his extra defensive versatility.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Acquiring Tillman’s Bird rights is a significant move for a team that projects to be above the second tax apron, states Brian Robb of MassLive. Tillman has a $1.9MM expiring contract, but Boston won’t have to worry about cap limitations when negotiating his next contract. Beginning this offseason, second-apron teams can’t aggregate salaries, send cash or use traded player exceptions in any deal in addition to not having access to the mid-level exception, so today’s move is a way of adding another long-term piece to the roster before the team’s options become limited this summer.
  • The Celtics were focused on flexibility when they opted to send Lamar Stevens to Memphis in the deal rather than use one of their trade exceptions and fill their open roster spot, a league source confirms to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Stevens earned a place on the roster after signing an Exhibit 10 deal with Boston last summer, but he wasn’t able to crack the rotation and saw limited playing time in 19 games. Mazzulla complimented Stevens for his professionalism and said he and Stevens are excited about the greater opportunity for playing time with the Grizzlies, Weiss tweets.
  • The open roster spot preserves the chance to convert Queta’s two-way deal to a standard contract. Himmelsbach adds. The third-year center can appear in 28 more games as a two-way player, but he won’t be eligible for the postseason unless he’s on the 15-man roster.
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