All signs pointed to Brad Stevens to staying silent during the trade deadline.
After months of talk from fans about how the Celtics should blow up the roster, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been playing like the star duo they have been since the start of 2022. Since the new year, the Celtics are 14-6 as well and are on a 6 game win streak. Their defense has been absurdly good during this stretch, holding their opponent under 100 points 11 times during this run. While the Celtics were scorching however, many people (me included) thought that Stevens wouldn’t do anything to throw the Celtics off their stellar play. He did the opposite, however, setting up the Celtics roster for the future by clearing up cap space as well as bringing in some much-needed shooting.
The day started early for the Celtics, taking the injured duo of PJ Dozier and Bol Bol they acquired from Denver and flipped them over to the Magic for a second round pick. This was nothing more than a cost saving option for Boston, as this move officially put them under the luxury tax. Being under the tax can allow the Celtics to get a payout of up to 10 million dollars. For a team that has $60 million tied up into Tatum and Brown alone, the Celtics need as much cap flexibility as possible. In terms of what they gave up, no one is losing sleep at night about Dozier and Bol. Both players are currently out for the year, Dozier with a torn ACL and Bol getting surgery for his foot, so Boston isn’t losing any on-court value. There were a lot of eyebrow raises when Stevens first made the deal but it seems like those questions have been answered.
Later on in the day, Boston made their biggest move of the deadline, trading Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford and a Top 4 protected pick to the Spurs for guard Derrick White. I don’t love the fact that they gave away a first round pick for White when Langford and Richardson should have been enough. To give Stevens credit, Danny Ainge used to stockpile picks that never really went anywhere, so it’s nice to see Stevens try to use his assets to make his team better in the now. In terms of White, he slots nicely as a 6th man off the bench. Currently averaging 14 points and 6 assists a game, White developed this season as a strong secondary playmaker behind All Star Dejounte Murray. His shooting has been suspect however, as he shoots only 31% from three. Signs point to just a down season right now, as he is a career 34% shooter, and is in the top 20 in free throw percentage. White will have a lot of catch and shoot opportunities available now that he has Tatum and Brown as his running buddies. White’s biggest value is his age however, as the five year pro is only 27. He’s contracted to the Celtics until 2025, so we’ll get to see what his prime truly is with the Celtics. Josh Richardson has taken a step back this season, as he’s putting up his lowest points, rebounds, and assist numbers since his rookie year. In terms of Romeo Langford, he’s a young player that hasn’t shown any sustained improvement. While he was used well in short term minutes and improved his shot, he never got a consistent role in Ime Udoka’s rotation, so his loss isn’t as big.
Right before the deadline closed, Boston did what everyone thought they would do: they traded Dennis Schroder. I don’t think even the biggest NBA experts expected him to go to Houston though, as Daniel Theis returns for his second stint on the Celtics. The Celtics also gave up Enes Freedom and Bruno Fernando, clearing out more cap space and now opening five roster spots. This trade is intriguing since I thought Schroder would be much more valuable on the market. On an expiring deal and averaging 14 points a game, it appeared a team hovering around playoff contention would jump at the chance to take a rental on a proven scorer. That wasn’t the case however as Schroder goes to the rebuilding Rockets to try to mentor star rookie Jalen Green. As for Theis, he’ll play the same role as he did when he played for the Celtics before, add defense, rebounding, and physical play. He is a serious upgrade over Freedom and will allow Horford to control his minutes more for the playoffs.
The next immediate step for the Celtics is to fill their new roster spots. It is likely that G-League standout Sam Hauser will have his two way contract converted to a full time one. Hauser has been lights out for the Maine Celtics, averaging 16 points a game while shooting 41% from three. With the Celtics prone to shooting droughts at times, Hauser could be used for 2-3 minute stretches when the ball needs to go into the basket. In terms of the rest of the spots? Expect the Celtics to scope the buyout market to add some shooting or playmaking to their ranks. They didn’t really solve the point guard problem, even though Derrick White could relieve some of the issues for Boston. All in all nothing groundbreaking happened for the Celtics, but they set themselves up to be a player in free agency now that they’re under the luxury tax. The first trade deadline for Stevens turned out to be a pretty successful one.