Brad Stevens kicked off 2024 with a press conference at the Celtics’ practice facility last week and was prompted on the team’s plans ahead of the upcoming Feb. 8 trade deadline.
He hinted to reporters that the team may look to add a “bigger wing,” but also stressed the importance of improving within.
“Every year around this time, you’re looking at ‘how do we improve to give ourselves the best chance?’,” he explained. “There are different ways to do it. Obviously, you can improve within, and we can do better at what we do on both ends of the court, and hopefully make strides individually and in how we fit together. Then, you can improve from free agency and trades or whatever. I do think that the key to us is going to be improvement from within.”
Since then, MassLive’s Brian Robb has reported that league sources “strongly expect” the Cs to get busy before the deadline, but it’s tough to imagine that they’d be able to do much with the resources at hand.
At this point, Boston simply doesn’t have many avenues to swing a deal in the trade market. Sure, they have the $6.3 million Traded Player Exception created by Grant Williams’ exit last summer, but even then the options are limited. There aren’t exactly a ton of impactful players making salaries in that range.
If the Cs hope to land anyone who makes more than that $6.3 million figure, then they’re going to have to either relinquish one of their top six or stack a bunch of salaries to match the incoming number. Neither of those options is all that realistic.
Improving from within is certainly the most realistic-looking outcome.
Fortunately for the Celtics, they’ve got a “bigger wing” sitting right under their nose.
Oshae Brissett is him.
Brissett’s continued hustle, defensive ability, and nose for the offensive glass all make him someone who can be valuable to Boston’s regular-season rotation. Unfortunately, his jumper isn’t quite there to make him a perimeter threat, but he’s shown a great cutting ability that can make him a scoring threat despite the lack of a stroke.
It’s unclear if he’d be suited to play big minutes in the playoffs because defenses would likely live with him taking threes, but at the very least he’s someone the Cs should trust to play good minutes in the coming months.
Boston brought in the six-foot-seven forward over the summer, signing him from the Indiana Pacers. At the time, many fans were excited about the move because their only recollection of Brissett was that one time that he lit up the Cs for 27 points back in 2022.
Things changed a bit once the season got underway. Brissett’s minutes were practically non-existent in the first few months. He’d really only see the floor in garbage time.
The one time where he actually did play meaningful minutes came in the home opener against the Miami Heat. It was a game where the Heat looked like the same weird team that always seems to have an answer for Boston’s talented core. This time, that even came without Caleb Martin (sigh) being in the lineup.
This was the first taste of the impact the Canadian wing could have by simply just playing hard, even in short minutes.
Miami took control of the game early and it wasn’t until Brissett checked in that the tide began to shift towards the home side.
He almost immediately put his fingerprints on the game, grabbing two offensive rebounds on the same possession late in the first quarter. One of them came off of a missed free throw, which basically never happens.
He capped off his debut quarter with a loud dunk over Heat rookie Jamie Jaquez Jr. The loud jam accounted for two of Boston’s 10 unanswered points after the pair of offensive rebounds.
After the final buzzer, Jayson Tatum was sure to shine some light on the impact that Brissett had had on the win, calling him the “sole reason” that they turned it around.
“He was the sole reason that we got back into the game, and I told him that,” Tatum told reporters. “He came right in, and we were kind of flat. His energy, his offensive rebounding, giving us second and third chance opportunities was big — and that’s his job. For him to come do that, to not play the last game and come in today and give us the spark to turn the game around, was huge. And that’s what I love about our team.”
Brissett didn’t see any more meaningful minutes for about a month. It wasn’t until Al Horford had the night off against the Charlotte Hornets that the former Syracuse standout got another opportunity.
He made the most of it once again.
Despite not attempting a shot in Charlotte, Brissett still managed to log a plus/minus of +17, the second-highest of any Celtic that night. He hit the glass hard once again, securing seven boards, two of which were offensive.
Brissett even saw some early fourth-quarter minutes as the Cs tried to hold off the Hornets. He managed to earn the team an extra possession by securing a rebound after a missed Payton Pritchard three.
Sure, he didn’t have tide-turning energy in this one, but he still made an impact without needing too much attention on the offensive end.
His next opportunity came against the Orlando Magic. It was the game where Lamar Stevens got the start at center with all three of Horford, Kristaps Porzingis, and Luke Kornet unavailable.
This marked the first time Oshae cracked double digits as a Celtic. He finished the night with 11 points and didn’t miss a shot. The most impressive part was that he earned all of his looks by making great cuts to put himself in a position to score.
For his first bucket, he gave Tatum a great outlet by cutting from the corner for a reverse layup.
A few minutes later, he made a cut that wasn’t recognized right away. Jrue Holiday could’ve hit him for an open layup but didn’t see the pass in real-time. However, the good movement resulted in him getting a wide-open corner three after the Cs grabbed an offensive board.
In an almost identical scenario about a minute after Brissett’s three found the bottom of the net, Holiday found him on the same cut for a loud dunk.
Oshae’s final bucket came on the end of a fastbreak in the second half. He sprinted the floor, ran a give-and-go with Derrick White, and then threw down another super-cool dunk.
In the 11 games following his impressive outburst against Orlando, Brissett has played over 15 minutes seven times, including five of the last six.
Since earning a more significant role, Brissett has been a force on the glass, per usual. He’s grabbed over six boards four times and ripped down eight (five offensive) against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.
The win at Indiana was one of his best outings yet. Sure, he shot just three-of-nine from the field, but he showed up at a pivotal point in the game.
Boston watched the Pacers walk down their halftime lead in the third quarter and entered the final period up just three points. Joe Mazzulla decided to open up the fourth with Brissett on the floor and the decision paid off.
No. 12 made all three of his fourth-quarter attempts, including this big boy and-1 with about nine minutes to play. He stayed patient, drove the closeout, and got himself to the rim.
On the very next possession, he battled down low to earn the Cs an extra possession as they continued to try and close things out.
Then, he hit buried a dagger three to give the Celtics a 15-point lead with about 4:20 to play.
Brissett’s grit and hard work haven’t gone unnoticed. Jaylen Brown was impressed with his resolve and ability to continuously stay read even when the minutes aren’t consistently there for him.
“That was fantastic, man. It’s tough to do, to not know if you’re gonna play or not or whatever, but to come in and just affect the game and dominate the game and control what you can,” Brown said after Saturday’s win (h/t Jared Weiss). “Oshae, I feel like anytime he’s stepped into the role and played, he’s contributed, being dynamite on the glass, being athletic, making plays, keeping plays alive. That goes a long way with a team like us.”
It’s pretty rare to see forwards earn consistent minutes if they’re not able to knock down threes at a high clip. The 3-and-D wing has become a hot commodity in today’s league, yet it feels like the stacked Celtics can still use a bit of Brissett in their rotation.
His willingness to battle for extra possessions, make the right cuts, and play hard defense make him a valuable asset even with his 32% long-range shooting. I just wrote 1,500 words on this man and his unique skillset. I included clips of him making meaningful plays and ONLY ONE of them was a made three-point basket.
Boston lost a bit of toughness when they traded away Marcus Smart last summer, but it seems like they may have found another dawg in Oshae Brissett.