Nine months ago, Brad Stevens moved into the front office and replaced Danny Ainge as President of Basketball Operations. He was handed a .500 team with veterans Tristan Thompson and Kemba Walker, two young superstars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and a roster littered with rookies and sophomores. Some TPE generation and usage, shrewd Dennis Schroder-type signings, and cost-cutting trades later, Stevens has born a Celtics team that’s looking more and more like a team Boston would be proud of.
After yesterday’s NBA trade deadline, Stevens sent out seven players and netted the Spurs’ Derrick White and a welcomed return of Daniel Theis from Houston. Speaking with the media on Friday, it was clear that the former coach turned GM valued two things: building around Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams, and Marcus Smart and putting together a defensive minded core for the long term.
“You want to do hopefully is accentuate your best players with people that make great sense around them and have a great self-awareness of who they are,” Stevens said of adding White and Theis.
He continued, “It’s about adding guys that you think and can see playing in a seven-game, knock down, drag out playoff series and you know they can be on the floor and play in a role in helping you win.”
Raise your hand if you’re excited ♀️ ♂️ pic.twitter.com/WaDaB7nwgm— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 11, 2022
The big get of the afternoon was White. Here’s CelticsBlog’s Jack Simone on Boston’s big acquisition:
He’s a defensive-minded player who changes speeds well on offense and is averaging 14.4 points, 5.6 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game this season. Though his shooting percentage (42.6) and 3-point percentage (31.4) aren’t spectacular, he’s entering his prime and should fit in well overall with the Celtics’ core.
With Josh Richardson and Dennis Schroder gone, White should slot in as Boston’s do-everything 6th man who should see starter’s minutes. “We’ve thought for years that Derrick was a really good fit with our best players. He is an excellent defender. He just makes the right play on offense, over and over and over,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that only cares about winning that will do all the little things that you can see in all of his stats defensively with his willingness to put his body on the line, activity, shot challenges, all of those things. And on offense, just by making those simple plays and doesn’t need to do anything to be on the highlights to really, really impact winning.”
Jayson Tatum, who was a teammate of Derrick White’s at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, says Derrick is “a really high IQ basketball player, very gifted offensively, a great defender, and just somebody you love to have on your team.”— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 11, 2022
White may not be that familiar with Celtics fans now, but he certainly has some outstanding rapport with the coaching staff and his new teammates. In addition to playing under head coach Ime Udoka in San Antonio, White played alongside Brown, Tatum, and Marcus Smart with Team USA in 2019. That familiarity plus White’s long-term contract made him a no-brainer in the front office’s eyes.
That same mindset also lead to a reunion with Theis. The opportunity to bring back the German center who played four seasons under Stevens came late in the day, but it was one that the now POBO couldn’t pass up.
“Rob (Williams) and Al (Horford) are our guys and they’re playing great, but if you miss any time with those two guys, you can plug Theis in and it’ll be a seamless transition,” Stevens said of his former player. “Theis knows how to make our best players better. That’s the best thing he does — he has a great feel for making others around him better. He’s got a savvy for the game.”
Like White, Theis is signed on a multi-year deal that could have the 29-year-old in Boston through 2025. “The long term part was always in the forefront,” Stevens said.
“The core of who’s playing and the core of who we’ll have moving forward and being able to get a couple of guys that are on contracts that you can build and grow together is really important. I’ve coached a lot of defenses in my life. I’ve coached some really good ones in college and some really good ones here. I’ve never seen one this dynamic when it’s locked in.”
On Thursday, Stevens added two players that should plug-and-play immediately and help continue the hot streak the Celtics are on. More importantly, White and Theis are now part of a culture-building project in Boston to raise Banner 18.