Celtics Bolster Depth by Signing Thompson and Teague

A bit of salary cap relief fell into Danny Ainge’s hands and he quickly turned it into the addition of two highly-productive veterans who address major needs for the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics today announced the signings of big man and NBA champion Tristan Thompson, as well as former All-Star guard Jeff Teague. The two former free agents signed their contracts with Boston the day before training camp is set to begin for the 2020-21 NBA season.

Thompson, 29, was the starting center for the 2016 NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. He joins Boston with career averages of 9.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, and averaged a double-double during each of the last two seasons.

Teague, 32, was an All-Star in 2015 with the Atlanta Hawks and carries career averages of 12.6 points, 5.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game over to the Celtics. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.2 assists per game last season during 59 games that were split between playing for Minnesota and Atlanta.

The two signings give Boston a boost in areas of need following the offseason departures of Enes Kanter, Brad Wanamaker and Gordon Hayward. Kanter, Boston’s most prolific rebounder, was traded to Portland Nov. 20. Wanamaker, a reserve point guard, signed a free-agent deal with Golden State Nov. 23. Hayward, a stud shooter and primary ball handler for the Celtics, was signed-and-traded to Charlotte Nov. 29.

Thompson replaces Kanter’s elite rebounding ability and immediately boosts the team’s athleticism, versatility and defensive prowess at the center position. He has averaged at least 9.8 rebounds per 36 minutes during each of his nine NBA seasons, all of which were spent with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Defensively, he is athletic enough to guard multiple positions and has been a very strong defender throughout his career, particularly while playing for quality teams.

Thompson logged yearly defensive win share totals that fell between 2.0 and 3.1 from 2013-17. To put that into perspective, Kanter has never logged a defensive win share total above 2.1 in his career, and All-Defensive First Team performer Marcus Smart has floated between 2.2 and 3.1 defensive win shares throughout his six professional seasons.

With Thompson in the fold, along with incumbent starter Daniel Theis and developing third-year big man Robert Williams, the Celtics now possess one of the most diverse and athletic crops of centers in the league.

Teague’s signing with Boston is just as important, despite flying a bit more under the radar than Thompson’s acquisition. Boston has not had a true reserve point guard with his level of credentials since Stephon Marbury, who joined the team late in the 2008-09 season, and Sam Cassell, who joined the team late in the 2007-08 season.

Teague gives Brad Stevens a savvy, speedy and smart guard off the bench who can and will handle primary ball-handling duties. While Wanamaker was rock solid for the Celtics last season while shooting 36.3 percent from long range, Teague is an unquestionable upgrade from a playmaking perspective.

Teague is a proven playmaker who averaged as many as 8.2 assists per game just three seasons ago as a starter in Minnesota. He has averaged at least 7.5 assists per 36 minutes for the past eight seasons. Teague is also a career 35.6 percent shooter from long distance, including a 36.8 percent conversion rate last season.

Stevens will now have the option of leaving Kemba Walker or Teague, two of the quickest guards in the league, on the court at all times around budding stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. That combination, as was witnessed last season while Walker was healthy, is a challenging one for opponents to defend.

Adding Teague and Thompson to a roster that already features two All-Stars in Walker and Tatum, one potential future All-Star in Brown, and an All-Defensive First Teamer in Smart, gives the Celtics established depth at every position. That’s a luxury Boston has not enjoyed in quite some time.

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