Now 56 games into the Celtics season, it’s been an up and down battle. There have been stretches thanks to injuries and COVID that have produced some terrible basketball and some other stretches, like the past few weeks, where the Celtics have played extremely well overall. Sitting in 7th in the Eastern Conference, the green would surely like to continue their run of successful play and move up in the standings down the stretch. They are just 1 game back of the Toronto Raptors, 2 games back of the new-look Philadelphia 76ers and only 5 games back from 1st in the conference. With all of that in mind, GM Brad Stevens went to work before Thursday’s trade deadline and made some significant deals that greatly impact the Celtics roster.
In 2 separate trades, the Celtics brought back fan favorite C Daniel Theis and brought in G Derrick White. Theis was brought to Boston in order to beef up the solid interior play of the Celtics and White will get plenty of playing time at the different guard spots, particularly point guard given his great assist-to-turnover ratio and perimeter defense, which fit the Celtics really well. Stevens was not afraid to shake up the team and sent Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford to the San Antonio Spurs in the White deal and Enes Freedom, Bruno Fernando and Dennis Schroder to the Houston Rockets in the Theis deal. The mass exodus from Boston leaves only 8 players on the roster as of Friday morning, forcing Stevens to bring in 2 players, either those on two way deals or by signing two players to reach the minimum of 10 before their home game with the Denver Nuggets on Friday night.
Overall, Stevens dumped some expiring contracts and some underperforming bench players to improve the roster. He cut bait with Langford, who had a lot of expectations when he was drafted 14th overall in 2019 by Danny Ainge, but has yet to grow into a decent NBA player and hasn’t been good enough to get any consistent minutes. Stevens has shown a willingness to move on if something isn’t working and this was a great example. With an eye toward staying competitive, but also remaining under the luxury tax, to me Stevens had a very successful trade deadline. White is under control until 2025 and is instantly a better fit for the Celtics than Schroder given his skill as a facilitator and Theis is better than Freedom and Fernando combined, providing more offense and solid defense alongside the strong core already on the team in Robert Williams III and Al Horford. Stevens addressed some needs in two effective trades without hamstringing the team in the future.
Now it’s time for the Celtics to really gel and build on their 6-game win streak. While it will take a bit for White to get comfortable with his new teammates, he can contribute day 1. Unlike White, there is hope that Theis can jump back in and pick up where he left off in his last stint with Boston. The Celtics now have 26-games to show us if a deep playoff run is possible in 2022.