The Boston Celtics acquired Xavier Tillman through commerce on Wednesday, sending out Lamar Stevens as a part of the deal. The transfer doubtless cements Boston’s big-man rotation, giving them optionality inside the rotation. Whereas not the offensive risk of Kristaps Porzingis or Al Horford, Tillman is a bodily presence with a repute for enjoying robust protection and including physicality.
He has spent his first three and a half NBA seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies. He performed in 34 video games for them this season, beginning 13. As he acclimates himself to his new teammates and training employees, Tillman will doubtless be the fourth-string huge man behind Luke Kornet — filling the function we’ve seen Neemias Queta in over the primary half of the season.
As he grows comfy with the Celtics system and will get used to the place his offense goes to return by way of, he may doubtlessly oust Kornet from the third-string function. Time will inform.
For now, although, all we are able to do is have a look at the movie on Tillman’s sport and attempt to study what he brings to the desk in order that we are able to envision the way it will translate to Joe Mazzulla’s crew. All of it begins together with his capability to thrive as a drop defender, staying in entrance of his man and containing drives and pick-and-roll actions.
Right here is an effective instance of how Tillman can slide his ft to remain in entrance of guards. Malcolm Brogdon tries to show the nook however will get shut off. Tillman then stays linked to him with out fouling, guaranteeing that Brogdon’s drive is contained and he’s tightly contested on any shot try.
Tillman may also defend on the perimeter and within the mid-range. The clip under is a superb illustration of how he can take in physicality on the perimeter. Watch how Zion Williamson tries to discard him with a bump, with Tillman nonetheless staying within the play.
One other facet to the above clip is how Tillman angles himself to remove the middle of the courtroom, forcing Zion into an angled drive, permitting Jaren Jackson Jr. to lurk for the block. The subsequent clip is of Tillman defending LeBron James within the mid-post.
Once more, LeBron — one of many extra bodily imposing gamers within the league- can’t bully his manner by way of Tillman. As a substitute, he settles for a tightly contested fadeaway, which clanks off the again rim.
So, it’s clear Tillman can provide you physicality and has a low sufficient middle of gravity to remain rooted when coping with a number of the stronger gamers within the league. One other facet of Boston’s protection is how they’ve their bigs change actions once they transfer away from their drop scheme. That gained’t be something new to Tillman, as he’s held an identical function with the Grizzlies.
Within the above possession, the Denver Nuggets go to pick-and-roll between Aaron Gordon and Nikola Jokic. Tillman switched onto Gordon, trailed him in a rear-view contest, anticipated the cross, and received the pilfer. His timing and studying of the play are each encouraging on this play. It’s his understanding that he does not have to be utterly linked to the curler to affect the possession.
Total, Tillman’s defensive skillset suits what Boston will likely be asking of him. He’s bodily sufficient to bang with stronger bigs. He’s clever at enjoying the angles. He can guard on the perimeter or change onto ball-handlers when guarding pick-and-roll possessions. It’s an identical function to Horford, so there’ll doubtless be some veteran tutelage occurring there.
Nevertheless, I wish to level out there may be one flaw inside Tillman’s defensive sport: his rebounding. He isn’t essentially the most commanding on the glass, which may have one thing to do with being 6’8’’ and going up in opposition to opposing facilities. Final season, he ranked within the thirty fifth percentile for defensive rebounding amongst bigs, and that was a career-high for him. This season, he’s within the twenty sixth percentile, grabbing simply 14% of accessible defensive boards when he’s on the ground.
Luckily for the Celtics, they’ve a plethora of different rebounding choices that ought to have the ability to paper over any cracks within the glass-cleaning division.
As we flip our consideration towards the offensive finish, the very first thing that stands out is Tillman’s passing capability.
We see the Celtics all the time run an identical motion with their bigs. Tillman units a display and slips earlier than the contact is made (a slip display.) The over-the-top cross is made, setting him free in the midst of the courtroom; he catches across the nail (a brief roll) and rapidly will get the cross up for a lob play.
Tillman’s passing isn’t one thing that jumps out of the display at you. As a substitute, it’s primarily based on fast decision-making and guaranteeing the suitable learn is made. We additionally see his passing abilities on show when he’s operating DHOs, each on the perimeter and across the mid-post or elbows.
Right here’s an elbow zoom motion, with Tillman working because the hand-off huge. Chances are you’ll acknowledge this play as one thing Ime Udoka favored his crew to run, because it manipulated the protection and offered a clearer straight-line drive for the hand-off recipient.
Anyway, discover how as soon as Tillman has initiated the hand-off, he mirrors the drive to supply a passing outlet earlier than establishing store within the strongside dunker spot. That gives the Grizzlies with two choices. First, he’s there as a launch valve if the protection kills the drive. Second, he can crash the glass if the shot misses and doubtlessly provide you with a second-chance board.
This possession is one other instance of Tillman’s hand-off passing. This time, it’s in a extra conventional Zoom motion. The identical sequence follows; he tracks the drive earlier than re-locating on the strongside dunker spot.
I like this clip as a very good instance of Tillman being a “subsequent cross” creator. He fills gaps, is fast to make reads, and has no downside getting off the ball in a rush. That can bode nicely for the Celtics, contemplating the tempo they like selections to be made and the temp they wish to run their offense with.
Now that we’ve checked out his passing and defending, it feels prefer it’s the suitable time to take a look at his potential affect as a pick-and-roll huge. According to NBA Stats, Tillman is averaging 0.67 factors per pick-and-roll possession when Tillman is the roll-man, which happens 1.3 occasions per sport. Put merely, Tillman isn’t a lot of a pick-and-roll risk and barely utilized in that scenario. As a substitute, he assaults out of DHO actions.
As a substitute, he’s higher when attacking in area after a DHO. It’s just like a pick-and-roll, however oftentimes, the Grizzlies use Tillman in secondary actions, permitting him extra room when he turns the nook. We see Bam Adebayo run related nook hand-off actions and function in an identical manner. Tillman’s mobility makes him a risk when entering into area and receiving the ball.
Once more, right here’s a Zoom motion. Tillman as soon as once more displays the ball-handler, this time receiving the cross and getting a straightforward end across the rim.
Past his hand-off scoring and skill to assault in area when slipping screening actions, Tillman can also be a priceless cutter who, when receiving the ball across the nail, is a troublesome participant to cease on account of his body and general power.
This play jumped out to me. Watch Tillman’s motion on the possession. He V-Lower’s out of the nook towards the nail, receiving the ball and finishing the minimize by attacking the rim, absorbing contact, and getting the end. Boston has been lacking that form of bulldozer motion since Grant Williams left in the summertime. Tillman’s capability to get low, management the ball, bounce off guys, and nonetheless get to his spot will likely be a useful gizmo for Mazzulla and his general offensive scheme.
By way of scoring the ball, Tillman is much from prolific. He’s taking pictures 56% on the rim, 35% from mid-range, and 24% from deep. His worth comes on protection, as a screener, and as a hand-off creator. Nonetheless, there are occasions when he can present some perimeter taking pictures.
Given his ability set, it might seem the Celtics are getting a great back-up huge. He’s not going to search for his personal shot, however he’ll take what the protection offers him. He’s comfortable to create for others, units nice screens, and is defensively versatile. The hope is that Boston can enhance his scoring output and assist enhance his taking pictures stroke and that working with the teaching employees can see him develop into a extra dependable rebounder.
The Celtics didn’t surrender a lot to get Tillman by way of the door. He brings a special dimension to Kornet off the bench. On the floor, this seems to be like a sensible enterprise from Stevens. We’ll know extra as he begins to get minutes inside the rotation. Till then, I’m fairly excited in regards to the transfer.