Former Michigan State big man Xavier Tillman was one of countless NBA players moved around ahead of the league’s trade deadline on Thursday afternoon. And his former college head coach had a bit of an inkling about the move.
That’s because Tom Izzo fielded a call from Boston Celtics general manager Brad Stevens earlier in the week as the franchise sought to — and eventually did — acquire Tillman from the Memphis Grizzlies. The long time Spartans head man is happy to see a former player land in a solid spot.
“Well I knew that was going on, I talked to the general manager, Brad, who we know very well,” Izzo said. “So I knew it, talked to him a couple days before. Didn’t know exactly when it would go through. I’m happy for him.”
In Boston, Tillman joins the franchise sitting comfortably in the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference at the deadline. Boston is currently 4.5 games up on second-place Cleveland and holds a league-best 39-12 record. Tillman, a 6-foot-7 forward, will likely slot in as a rotational big man alongside fellow Michigan native Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and others.
And Tillman is leaving behind a Memphis team that current sits at No. 13 in the Western Conference.
“I think he needs to move and I think he moves to a championship organization and I think it’s a good deal for him. I don’t know all the particulars yet, but I’m happy for X,” Izzo said.
Tillman wasn’t Boston’s only acquisition
According to ESPN’s NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, Boston has traded to acquire Jaden Springer of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Springer was the first-round pick of the 76ers back in the 2021 NBA Draft, taken with the 28th overall selection. In his two years in Philadelphia, he has seen action in 50 games for the franchise but has also spent time with their G league affiliates, the Delaware Blue Coats.
This season, Springer has played in 32 games for the 76ers, averaging 11.8 minutes of action per contest. He’s also averaging a career-high 4.0 points per game to go along with 1.1 assists and 1.8 total rebounds while shooting 39 percent from the field.
Springer is known for his defensive skill set. That aligns well with the Celtics guard’s defensive identity. Jrue Holiday and Derrick White are considered to be two of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA. However, Springer does struggle on the offensive end. Currently, this season, he is shooting just 21.6 percent from beyond the arc. But being on the court with elite shot makers and creators in Tatum and Jaylen Brown might provide opportunities for him to improve his three-point shooting this season.