The Boston Celtics suffered a big blow on Saturday when Gordon Hayward left to sign a massive four-year, $120 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets. Replacing a player of his caliber simply won’t be possible with the options left on the free agent market, but the Celtics have bounced back to some extent with a nice signing to boost their frontcourt depth.
Veteran big man Tristan Thompson will be joining the Celtics on a two-year, $19 million deal, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. Thompson had spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but their offer to him this week was less than what the Celtics were willing to pay, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic.
And so, Thompson will move on, joining a Celtics team that is hoping to contend again in the Eastern Conference. A long-time playoff nemesis for Boston, Thompson will be a perfect fit in their frontcourt, where he’ll provide some much-needed size, rim protection and rebounding ability.
For much of last season, the refrain surrounding the Celtics was that they needed a big man. And while that was perhaps a bit unfair to starting center Daniel Theis, who is quite underrated, it was true that Boston was a bit thin down low. For all his positive traits, Theis is just 6-foot-8 and could be overpowered at times around the basket. And behind Theis were only Enes Kanter — well known for his defensive liabilities — and young prospect Robert Williams, who is still quite raw.
With Thompson’s arrival, the Celtics now have a very solid rotation at the center position, and plenty of lineup flexibility. It’s not clear yet if Thompson will start or come off the bench, but either way, he helps address one of their biggest needs, which was an additional presence in the paint. Even if he’s no longer at the peak of his powers, Thompson is still a solid, reliable rim protector and rebounder.
Offensively, he’s not a guy who you can throw the ball to in the post and expect that he’ll get you buckets, but he’s a terrific screener — ninth in the league with 4.6 screen assists per game last season on a bad Cavaliers team — which will benefit the Celtics’ perimeter stars. And he’s one of the best offensive rebounders in the league, and will generate extra possessions.
All told, Thompson is a great fit in Boston. It doesn’t completely soothe the sting of losing Hayward for nothing, but this is exactly the type of move that a contender should be making around the margins.