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Brad Stevens exit interview: it was Brad all along

To Brad Stevens, our evil mastermind.

Miami Heat Vs Boston Celtics At TD Garden Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Who’s been fixing up everything?
It’s been Brad all along
Who’s been pulling every evil string?
It’s been Brad all along
He’s insidious (ha-ha!)
So perfidious
That you haven’t even noticed
And the pity is (the pity is)
Pity, pity, pity, pity
It’s too late to fix anything
Now that everything has gone right
Thanks to Brad (ha!)
Naughty Brad
It’s been Brad all along!
... and I killed our first rounders, too

Brad Stevens put together an Executive of the Year-level performance in his first year behind the front office desk. His promotion to President of Basketball Operations was met with equal parts skepticism and surprise, but he quickly put doubts to rest with his first move – securing the return of Al Horford for the cost of a 2021 first rounder and Kemba Walker.

Every day, this move continues to age better and better as Horford put together an age-35 season that’s better than every season since 2019. On the flip side, Kemba Walker just got salary dumped for the second time in a year to the Detroit Pistons, and he’s quickly approaching a buyout there, too. Meanwhile, Horford just finished a campaign as a key contributor on a team two wins away from an NBA championship.

And that’s what Brad Stevens orchestrated – a team that was two wins away from the highest accomplishment in team building in the NBA. Stevens made few missteps but made many of the right moves at almost every turn. Here’s every major transaction Stevens’ front office pulled off after the Horford trade:

  • Acquired Bruno Fernando, Kris Dunn, a second rounder and a TPE for Tristan Thompson’s expiring MLE contract ✅
  • Signed Enes Kanter and Dennis Schröder ❌
  • Drafted Juhann Bergarin and Yam Madar (too early to tell)
  • Signed Sam Hauser to a two-way contract ✅
  • Traded for Josh Richardson ✅
  • Signed Marcus Smart and Robert Williams to long-term extensions ✅
  • Signed Juwan Morgan (too early to tell)
  • Traded for Juancho Hernangomez ❌
  • Waived Garrison Matthews ❌
  • Signed Broderic Thomas to a two-way contract (too early to tell)
  • Signed a bunch of 10-days ✅ (the vibes reset with Joe Johnson)
  • Took on Bol Bol and PJ Dozier to offload Juancho Hernangomez in a three-team trade ✅
  • Traded Romeo Langford, Josh Richardson and a 2022 1st for Derrick White ✅
  • Traded Enes Freedom, Dennis Schröder and Bruno Fernando to bring back Daniel Theis ✅
  • Dumped Bol Bol and Dozier to Orlando for a second rounder and some TPEs ✅
  • Signed Malik Fitts, Nik Stauskas, Luke Kornet and Matt Ryan ✅

Busy year! But definitely more hits than misses for Stevens, particularly in the back half of the year. The big misses are obviously Dennis Schröder and Enes Freedom being the big free agency signings last year. In the former’s case, he’s a good player who proved to be a bad fit for the roster. Stevens clearly learned his lesson by the trade deadline, fixing those errors by selecting players who are a perfect fit for the type of basketball Udoka wants to play.

In all, Stevens assembled the best roster in the Eastern Conference that went through the hardest playoff route possible to still get within striking distance of a championship.

How will he improve from here? There’s a vocal group of people who still clamor for major changes to the roster, including a change at the point guard position or the acquisition of a third star. Neither of those two things seem to be on the table based on what we’ve seen from Stevens’ tenure so far. What’s more likely is that the team upgrades playmaking with bench players, which is really what led to the Warriors having a championship parade instead of Boston.

Boston Celtics Vs Golden State Warriors at Chase Center Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Celtics’ starting five was dominant to an insane degree this season, so keeping the core together while making improvements on the margin will be the difference between coming up short in 2023 or finally getting over the hump for the first time since 2008. At his disposal are the MLE and a couple of TPEs, including the sizable $17.1 million from the Evan Fournier S&T last year.

Executive of the Year awards typically reward executives in retrospect, so what Stevens does this summer and how the team performs to start the year will determine how much hardware the Celtics bring home next summer.

Let’s hope it’s a lot of hardware.

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