Will Former Michigan State Spartan Xavier Tillman Sr. Become a Factor in NBA Finals?

Former Michigan State men's basketball forward Xavier Tillman Sr. did not play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Will he be utilized going forward?
Jun 5, 2024; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics forward Xavier Tillman (26) checks on guard Jaylen Brown (7) after he was hit on the head with a ball during the NBA Finals Media Day at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 5, 2024; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Xavier Tillman (26) checks on guard Jaylen Brown (7) after he was hit on the head with a ball during the NBA Finals Media Day at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Xavier Tillman Sr. is one step closer to his first NBA title.

The former Michigan State men's basketball forward never saw the court in Thursday's first game of the 2024 NBA Finals, but his team, the Boston Celtics, defeated the Dallas Mavericks 107-89 to go up 1-0 in the series.

Tillman has played a total of five games in these NBA playoffs so far and even played three games in Boston's Eastern Conference Finals series against the Indiana Pacers.

So, what exactly is the plan for Tillman going forward in this series?

The Celtics have not utilized Tillman to the extent that the Memphis Grizzlies did during his time with that organization, but he can still be a positive contributor on the court. But considering how Boston was able to dominate Dallas in Game 1, it might not really need him this series.

Anything can happen of course, whether it be injuries or the Mavericks coming back to give the Celtics some trouble in this series, and there could come a point when Tillman is called on to step up.

This is Tillman's first NBA Finals appearance, though he has been to the postseason three other times during his years with the Grizzlies.

Memphis traded Tillman to Boston prior to the trade deadline after he had spent the first part of his professional career with the club. The Grizzlies drafted him in the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft, which followed his career season with the Spartans.

In his final season at Michigan State, Tillman averaged 13.7 points per game, 10.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 2.1 blocks. His rebounding average ranked third in the Big Ten, with his 237 defensive rebounds ranking first.

Tillman was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for that season and made the All-Big Ten Defense Team and the All-Big Ten Second Team.

The former Spartan finished his career at Michigan State first in program history in all-time blocks per game (1.5), first in box plus/minus (11.9), first in defensive box plus/minus (6.1), fourth in offensive box plus/minus (5.8), and second in player efficiency rating (25.8).

Game 2 of the NBA Finals will take place Sunday at 8 p.m. EST.

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Aidan Champion

AIDAN CHAMPION