Boston Bolsters Defense Even More with Theis, White Additions

Brad Stevens’ first trade deadline rolled around Thursday afternoon, and he didn’t hold back. The Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations agreed to terms on three trades ahead of the 3 p.m. deadline, which included seven players going out, two players coming in, as well as some swapping of future draft picks.

Boston acquired a skilled playmaker in Derrick White and reacquired a hard-working, floor-spacing, versatile big in Daniel Theis. Both additions bring tenacity and versatility on the defensive end, which should make this year's top-ranked defense even more fearsome.

Boston’s front office got warmed up with a small deal in the early afternoon, trading Bol Bol, PJ Dozier, cash considerations, and a conditional future second-round draft pick to Orlando in exchange for another conditional future second-rounder.

Neither Bol nor Dozier – who are both recovering from major surgeries – had a chance to play a game for Boston after being acquired together in a trade on Jan. 19. However, in trading them, it helped the Celtics financially by delaying the start of a potential repeater tax scenario in future years as the team builds around Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

Later in the evening, the Celtics finalized their second trade of the day, reacquiring Theis from the Houston Rockets in exchange for Bruno Fernando, Enes Freedom, and Dennis Schroder.

Theis spent his first three-plus seasons in Boston before being traded to the Chicago Bulls ahead of last year’s trade deadline. Through 26 games (21 starts) this season, he has averaged 8.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.

Finally came the big splash of the day, as the C’s traded Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, and a protected 2022 first-round pick to San Antonio in exchange for White. As part of the deal, the Spurs also have a conditional right to swap first-round picks with Boston in 2028.

Up until Thursday, White had spent his entire five-year career with the Spurs and is in the midst of arguably his best season. Through 49 games (48 starts), the 27-year-old has averaged 14.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.6 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. He’s also blocked the second-most shots among all NBA guards this season with 42 swats.

There’s also an extra silver lining in acquiring the veteran combo guard, being that he is already familiar with many faces on the Celtics roster.

White’s first two NBA seasons overlapped with Celtics head coach Ime Udoka’s last two seasons on Gregg Popovich’s staff, and he spent four seasons with C’s assistant coach Will Hardy. Udoka also coached White with Team USA during the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum were all members of that national team as well, so White already has on-court experience with the bulk of Boston’s core.

From his time with White, Tatum observed and recalled Friday morning, "He's a really high-IQ basketball player, very gifted offensively, a great defender, and just somebody you love to have on your team.”

On top of those connections, Stevens had been eyeing White for several years, viewing him as a player who could help maximize the Jays’ talent.

“We've thought for years that Derrick was a really good fit with our best players,” Stevens said Friday morning during a conference call with the media. “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, 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 to be on the highlights, to really, really impact winning.”

As Celtics fans already know, Theis is another player who impacts winning. The 6-foot-8 German center was often lauded for his team-first approach throughout his previous tenure in Boston, during which he averaged 7.2 PPG and 4.9 RPG while shooting 55.4 percent from the field and 34.5 percent from 3-point range.

Stevens initially didn’t expect to make a move for Theis but was thrilled to have a deal materialize during the final 20 minutes ahead of the deadline.

Adding Theis gives the Celtics some frontcourt insurance should either Al Horford or Rob Williams miss any time, and he will be a solid backup otherwise.

“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,” said Stevens. “Theis knows how to make our best players better, that's the best thing he does is he has a great feel for making others around him better, he's got a savvy for the game.”

Although the deadline has passed, the Celtics are not even close to being done making moves. Due to the lopsided nature of their trades with regard to outgoing players versus incoming players, they still have several roster spots to fill. Stevens said the team will look to add multiple “skilled” players in the coming days to round out the roster, including at least a couple of moves he anticipates making before Friday night’s tip-off against the Denver Nuggets.

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