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The Boston Celtics addressed what may prove their most pressing need a day in advance of the NBA trade deadline. At 38-12, the team atop the league standings doesn't need to take a big swing and could've justified standing pat and then converting Neemias Queta from a two-way contract to a full-time deal.

But Kristaps Porzingis, who came to Boston with a history of lower body injuries, dealt with plantar fasciitis over the summer and has missed time this season due to multiple minor lower-body ailments.

Al Horford is 37 and has 16 years of NBA miles on his tires.

That prompted a conversation between Inside The Celtics and the team's president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens, about a month ago regarding the organization potentially seeking to upgrade its options behind its top two options at the pivot.

"What you look at is guys that can play, guys that can add value," stated Stevens. "But like I said last year, (that) don't need to play. They are over themselves. And I think that that's important. That's what we have right now.

"And we've gotten obviously good play out of, great play out of Kristaps, I think Al's been good. I think Luke (Kornet) and Neemy, when called upon, (they) have both added great value."

While Xavier Tillman won't deliver the same impact as Porzingis or Horford, he checks the boxes for Boston.

The newest Celtic is on an expiring $1.9 million contract, meaning he fits into their $1.8 million Justin Jackson traded player exception (TPE). Teams can use a TPE to absorb a salary up to $100 thousand more than its value.

So, Boston has the option of preserving its $6.2 million Grant Williams traded player exception, a valuable tool that, due to the more punitive nature of the league's new collective bargaining agreement, effectively expires after Thursday's trade deadline.

However, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Celtics, who parted with a 2027 second-round pick via the Atlanta Hawks, a 2030 second-round selection via the Dallas Mavericks, and Lamar Stevens to acquire Tillman from the Memphis Grizzlies, will dip into their $6.2M TPE to help facilitate this trade. Still, it seems more likely Stevens' inclusion was for salary-matching purposes and that they did not use that traded player exception. 


The three-year veteran averaged 8.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in Memphis' first-round series against the Los Angeles Lakers last postseason. He also produced nearly a steal and a block per contest.

He's generating 6.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game in the current campaign. He also ranks in the 99th percentile in defensive estimated plus-minus, per

At six-foot-eight, 245 pounds, the big-bodied Tillman moves well for his size and can operate alongside Horford or Porzingis. He also makes it easier to pace the two of them in the final months of the regular season.

The former Michigan State Spartan will help when called upon, including if he has to step up in the unfortunate event of an injury to Porzingis or Horford, and while he's on an expiring contract, his age, ability, and his next contract not projecting to prove too costly suggest he could be more than a rental for Boston.

Further Reading

Celtics Linked to Multiple Wings Leading Up to Trade Deadline

Marcus Smart Shares How Boston Shaped Him, His Message to Celtics Fans

Jayson Tatum Shares What Went Through His Mind Seeing Celtics Fans Celebrate Marcus Smart

Derrick White Opens Up About Shooting Slump After Propelling Celtics Past Pelicans: 'Don't Feel Sorry for Yourself'

Celtics Maturation Molded by Experience: 'It Builds, Like, an Armor'

Celtics Finding Joy in Basketball and Each Other's Company: 'We've Been Blessed'

Fixated on Winning, Jayson Tatum Again Proves He's Not 'Bored Making the Right Play Over and Over'

Brad Stevens Shares What Celtics Are Looking to Add and How He Hopes to Do So

Jaylen Brown Quieting Doubters, Validating What He Always Believed: 'Earn Everybody's Trust'

Joe Mazzulla Discusses Identity, Evolution of Celtics' Offense: 'Balance of Pace and Execution'

Jaylen Brown Shares His View of What Defines 'Celtics Basketball'