Feb 9, 2024 - News

Celtics bolster bench ahead of trade deadline, eyeing title chase

Xavier Tillman, elite defender, during a game for the Memphis Grizzlies. He recently got traded to the Boston celtics.

Meet the new guy: Xavier Tillman, elite defender. Photo: Justin Ford/Getty Images

The Celtics bolstered their bench this week ahead of the NBA's trade deadline, adding a defensive stalwart as they gear up for a playoff run with championship ambitions.

State of play: At 39-12, the Celts boast the NBA's best record and are riding high with a five-game lead in the Eastern Conference standings.

  • Their young superstars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, are living up to their billing this season.
  • 🦄 The team's big offseason acquisition, Kristaps "The Unicorn" Porzingis, has also been a hit: He's averaging 20 points and 7 rebounds a game and scored 31 Wednesday to beat the Hawks.

The big picture: While regular season success is nice, the Celtics want a title. Anything less than a deep postseason run would be a disappointment.

  • For the uninitiated: Boston has netted 17 championships, most recently in 2008.
  • The Celtics made it to the NBA Finals in 2022 but lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.

⚡ Threat level: Boston's top two centers, Porzingis and Al Horford, have missed a combined 23 games, and Porzingis has been injury prone in the past.

  • The team has been much worse with third-stringer Luke Kornet on the court.

Enter Xavier Tillman. The 25-year-old big man, acquired from the Memphis Grizzlies this week, is an elite defender who'll add depth to the lineup.

  • Meanwhile, minutes before yesterday's trade deadline, the Celts nabbed Jaden Springer from the 76ers. The 21-year-old guard is unlikely to play much but is also a skilled defender.

What they're saying: "What do you get the team that has everything?" mused ESPN's Kevin Pelton, who gave the Celtics an "A" for the Tillman trade.

What's next: The Celtics play the Wizards tonight (7:30pm) at home, before heading to Miami for a nationally televised game against the Heat on Sunday.

  • That game tips off at 2pm on ABC.

Then, catch Brown and Tatum in the All-Star Game a week from Sunday. Brown's also likely participating in the dunk contest on Feb. 17.

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Boston.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Boston stories

No stories could be found

Bostonpostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Boston.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more