Stevens accomplished all three and even created more
flexibility. When our staff went through gut-reaction winners and
losers of the deadline on our live show, all of us counted the
Celtics as winners. They still have five available roster spots, so
the moves aren't finished. On Friday morning at his media
availability, Stevens clearly outlined his personal goals with the
"I thought all year that what we really needed to continue to
focus on were adding guys that really know how to play, that make
the right basketball decisions, and really have a great
self-awareness to do what they do best and accentuate our best
It starts with Derrick White. The 27-year-old combo guard
replaces Schröder on the depth chart but could not be a more
different player. Brad Stevens gave a glowing review of White, who
has apparently been on his radar going back to his time with the
USA Select Team:
"We've thought for years that Derrick was a really good fit with
our best players," Stevens said. He is an excellent defender. He
just makes the right play on offense, over and over and over. He's
a guy that only cares about winning [and] that will do all of the
little things, as you can see in some of his stats defensively with
regard to willingness to put his body on the line, activity, shot
challenges, all of those things. And on offense, just by making
simple plays and doesn't need to do anything [or] be on the
highlights to really impact winning... We felt really fortunate to
be able to get a guy like that on a long contract that we think is,
again, a perfect fit for our best players."
That covers the bases. White is averaging 5.6 assists per game
this season with a 25.2% assist rate; the latter ranks in the 82nd
percentile at his position, per Cleaning the Glass. His
assist-to-usage rate of 1.12 is in the 76th percentile. For
comparison, Schröder had an assist-to-usage rate of 0.93 (12th
percentile). And these numbers come as White frequently shared the
floor with lead guard Dejounte Murray.
White's assist-to-pass ratio of 14.5% ranks eighth in the entire
In theory, the ball should stick less with White and Marcus
Smart in the backcourt, and White is more than capable of running
an offense when Smart and/or Jayson Tatum isn't on the floor. In
the below clips, he's making reads in split seconds. It's easy to
picture Robert Williams or Al Horford as Jakob Poeltl, or Grant
Williams/Jaylen Brown shooting these corner attempts.
White isn't going to wow you with a highlight reel pass. But
whether it's turning a good shot to a great shot, applying pressure
with his cuts or pushing the transition pace, he brings several
skills that Boston hasn't nailed down consistently.
Many Celtics fans were immediately concerned by White's 31.4%
three-point clip. It's reasonable, and he likely won't ever be an
elite marksman or pull-up dagger machine. But there's a bit more to
unpack on the efficiency front.
White is making 22% of his corner threes this season. That is...
extremely bad, and also 26 percentage points lower from 2020-21.
He's making 34% of his threes above the break, which is slightly
above league-average. White is making 32.3% of his catch-and-shoot
three-pointers, per NBA Stats, when he's typically been in the
38-39% range in recent seasons. Brad Stevens said on Friday he
thinks White is a better shooter than the base numbers suggest. I'm
inclined to agree.
These aren't even White's key selling points. Flip to the
defensive side of the ball and he'll show you why many now think
the Celtics could boast the stingiest unit in the NBA. Nekias
Duncan lauded White as one of the best point-of-attack players in
the league on our show yesterday, and I'd take him at his word.
White has a fantastic blend of speed and strength at 6-foot-4 and
can mirror drives from the NBA's toughest guards. Here's one clip
of him smothering Shai Gilgeous-Alexander:
White's block rate is in the 97th percentile at his position. It
has been there, or higher, in each of the last four seasons. I
truly fear for opposing backcourts if he and Marcus Smart share the
The Celtics gave up Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, a 2022
lightly-protected first-round pick and the right to swap
first-rounders in 2028 in exchange for White. That's quite a
package for a player who is either a solid complementary starter or
a really great bench piece. Stevens himself acknowledged that
giving up first-round picks is an inherent risk. But it's the type
of move that signals to Tatum and Brown that they're worth building
With minutes left on the clock, Boston snuck in another deal
with the Rockets. Stevens sent Enes Freedom, Bruno Fernando and
Schröder to Houston for Daniel Theis. With White in the fold, there
was no need to keep Schröder even in the short term, and the
Celtics also moved two centers who should not play in the rotation
to bring back a very capable depth big.
Theis returns after less than a calendar year away from Boston.
The 29-year-old started 21 of 26 games with the Rockets and
averaged 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. He's a stalwart
interior finisher; per Basketball Reference, Theis has made at
least 71% of his shots within three feet of the basket in every
year of his NBA career. He's not the stretch big man his
three-point volume suggests, but Theis can at least make around one
per game in theory.
Theis also isn't an event-creator on defense. He's a bruiser who
can come off the bench and be a more viable switcher than Freedom
or Fernando ever were. Ime Udoka should at least feel more
comfortable deploying Theis in the rotation so Robert Williams III
and Al Horford are not overextended.
"Rob and Al are our guys and they're playing great, but if you
miss any time with those two guys, you can plug Theis in and it'll
be a seamless transition," Stevens said.
So in two trades, the Celtics have upgraded their secondary
guard spot and their bench center spot at the risk of missing out
in the draft. With the help of a third trade from earlier in the
morning, they also gave themselves extra time for moves via the
Boston dealt PJ Dozier, Bol Bol, a second-round pick and cash
considerations to Orlando for a conditional second-round pick. The
goal was clearly to get under the luxury tax, and per Spotrac, Boston did that.
Between the three moves, the Celtics have a whopping five open
roster spots to fill. The needs are glaring: shooting and wing
depth. That's especially compounded after trading Richardson.
The Athletic's Jared
Weiss wrote that he's "gotten the impression" the Celtics will
at least take a look at Gary Harris on the buyout market. Nekias Duncan listed Boston as a
potential landing spot for Harris. If the three-point clip stays
up, Harris would make a lot of sense as a plug-and-play shooting
With so many lopsided deals around the league in terms of roster
size, Boston should have options. Maybe Orlando also buys out
Terrence Ross. Perhaps the Lakers waive Kent Bazemore or the
Clippers let go of recently-acquired Rodney Hood?
The G League is also loaded with potential fits. According to
Adrian Wojnarowski, Boston is already signing Sam Hauser and Luke
Kornet to rest-of-season contracts from the Maine Celtics. Hauser's
signature skill is shooting and Kornet can stretch the floor as
Stevens was vague at his press conference, saying he wanted
players with "skill." The Celtics have five opportunities
(including Hauser and Kornet) to find such players. Udoka has
another tough choice to make, too — should he break up the current
buzzsaw starting lineup and insert White, or bring a
starting-caliber guard beginning a four-year, $73 million contract
extension off the bench?
For all the angst about Schröder's tendency to stop the ball, he
was also a much-needed driving threat. White gets to the rim at a
level around league-average, but he's not the blazing downhill
driver Schröder is. Will that affect how the ball is able to move,
especially if the Celtics don't have enough shooters on the
Clearly these deals don't end the questions. For now, though,
fans should feel confident that Brad Stevens was clear and
deliberate with his trade deadline moves. Derrick White and Daniel
Theis appear to be the complementary talents Boston should be
seeking to bolster a lineup hunting postseason contention.
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