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The Boston Celtics have the NBA’s best record, but have been searching to fill out their bench. An area of concern has been frontcourt depth. Boston filled that need by acquiring Xavier Tillman Sr. from the Memphis Grizzlies.

Here are the particulars:

Boston Celtics acquire: Xavier Tillman Sr.

Memphis Grizzlies acquire: Lamar Stevens, 2027 Atlanta Hawks second-round pick, 2030 Dallas Mavericks second-round pick

Let’s dive in!

Boston Celtics

Incoming salary: $1.9 million in 2023-24

  • Xavier Tillman Sr. (C, one year, $1.9 million)

Outgoing salary: $2.0 million in 2023-24

  • Lamar Stevens (SF/PF, one year, $2.0 million)

Boston has been looking to fill out their bench with quality depth. It’s been termed as looking to add emergency players. That’s what Tillman will likely be for the Celtics, with some potential upside.

Tillman is an undersized five, but he’s strong and a rugged defender. He’s got decent length and athleticism too. That allows him to compete with bigger players and to hold up defensively. He can be used in a number of different schemes, which is important with how often Boston changes their coverages.

On offense, Tillman has been all over the place. As a rookie in 2020-21, Tillman shot a promising 34% on three-pointers. Since then, the outside shot has all but disappeared. This season, Tillman has broken it back out, but he’s hitting only 23% on 1.6 three-point attempts per game.

More worrisome? Tillman’s finishing around the rim has fallen way off too. After hitting a career-high 75% in shots at the rim last season, Tillman has dropped to 57% this season. The hope is that’s because Tillman has been playing in talent-deficient lineups for the incredibly banged-up Grizzlies. With others to attract some attention, Tillman’s efficiency should return.

Beyond his defense and scoring, Tillman is a pretty good rebounder and passer. His per-minute rebounding stats show a guy who is a plus on the glass. Tillman is an underrated passer too. Look for the Celtics to use him in some of the top-of-the-key and elbow actions where Al Horford and Rob Williams have excelled as playmakers.

Boston likely sees Tillman as their fourth-big man. Kristaps Porzingis is the lone starting big, while Horford plays what is essentially a starter’s role off the bench. Luke Kornet has been the third big, with two-way player Neemias Queta filling in when someone is out.

Tillman will bump Queta, who is closing in on maxing out the 50 NBA games he’s allowed to be active for as a two-way player. If Tillman is healthy, and assimilates quickly to the Celtics, he could eventually supplant Kornet in the rotation too.

One interesting and important piece of cap minutiae: Because Boston was able to send Stevens to Memphis in this deal, they were able to retain the entirety of the $6.2 million traded player exception they have from last summer’s sign-and-trade of Grant Williams. Boston also retained an open roster spot. That TPE and the open roster spot are good tools and flexibility for Brad Stevens to have, as he continues to fill out the Celtics bench.

Memphis Grizzlies

Incoming salary: $2.0 million in 2023-24

  • Lamar Stevens (SF/PF, one year, $2.0 million)

Outgoing salary: $1.9 million in 2023-24

  • Xavier Tillman Sr. (C, one year, $1.9 million)

The Grizzlies are continuing the reshape their roster in what’s become a lost season due to injuries. Trading Tillman doesn’t actually save Memphis any money this season, but they do clear up an open free agent question for the summer.

The Grizzlies might have felt some pressure to re-sign Tillman, who was a draft-and-develop find. Now, they can move in a different direction without feeling a need to potentially overpay Tillman in unrestricted free agency.

Memphis gets to add a couple of additional second-round picks to their coffers. As we covered in the breakdown of the Steven Adams trade, these picks are valuable currency for the Grizzlies. They can use them to backfill open roster spots (standard or two-way), or they can use them in future trades.

It’s somewhat unlikely that Lamar Stevens will play a role for Memphis. He may not even stick past the trade deadline. The Grizzlies would like to clear an open roster spot to sign two-way player GG Jackson to a standard deal. Waiving, or re-trading, Stevens seems to be a path toward getting that done.

The Grizzlies may not be done reworking their roster either. They still have several role players that could interest teams. Memphis is setting themselves up to rebound in a big way with a healthy roster next season. Continuing to clear room around the tax and the aprons could lead to additional summertime moves to aid in a major turnaround for next season.