Of all the NBA big men who have been mentioned in connection with the Celtics in recent months, one of the least likely to join the team seemed to be Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson. After all, Thompson had spent all nine years of his career as the starter for the Cavs, the Celtics’ biggest recent rival, and is a client of Rich Paul and Klutch Sports, who was said to have steered fellow client Anthony Davis away from the Celtics when Boston was considering trading for Davis last year.
But Thompson is their guy, it seems.
The Celtics appeared to be on the brink of a sign-and-trade for Myles Turner of the Pacers on Friday. Boston had also been connected to centers like Clint Capela of Atlanta and Andre Drummond, also of the Cavs.
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There was some discussion, too, from Sports Illustrated, of Thompson heading to the Lakers, where he could join the growing group of Klutch clients, which now includes LeBron James, Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and newly signed Montrezl Harrell, who bolted from the Clippers on Friday. But the rumor mill was thin on Thompson-to-Boston speculation.
After the signing of Harrell and Matthews, Thompson would have likely been forced to take the veterans’ minimum to join the Lakers.
Thompson Could Replace Celtics Center Daniel Theis
Instead, Thompson is headed to Boston, which had its midlevel exception freed up when forward Gordon Hayward unexpectedly signed with the Hornets on Saturday. Thompson will get two years and $19 million, meaning he signed for the Celtics’ full midlevel exception, which starts at $9.3 million.
Thompson is 29 and is coming off the best year of his career, at least in terms of production. He averaged a career-high 12.1 points and 2.1 assists, while also adding 10.1 rebounds. He is not a floor-spacer—he has taken just 32 3-pointers in his career—but stays within himself offensively. He has shot 51.8% from the field in the NBA.
Thompson will address an area that proved to be a weak spot for the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals when they struggled to contain Miami big man Bam Adebayo—Boston does not have a center on the roster how can be physical enough down low.
Theis Had Knee Surgery After the Postseason
The Celtics started Daniel Theis at center for the bulk of the season, but Theis is 6-foot-8 and only 245 pounds. He handled the role well, but players like Adebayo left him (and others, to be fair) overmatched.
There is some wider concern about Theis’ knee, which required surgery after the postseason this year. In March 2018 he had surgery to fix a torn lateral meniscus in the same knee. He did return the following season, and played 66 games.
During the season, Theis put together his best year, averaging 9.2 points and 6.6 rebounds, shooting 56.6% from the field, a career high. But when the Celtics came back to finish the season in the NBA’s bubble environment, he was especially effective, averaging 10.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists with 1.3 blocks in 27.3 minutes per game in the team’s first six games. He was given the final game-and-a-half off. He also shot 58.5% from the field and 42.9% from the 3-point line.
Theis was good in the first 10 games of the Celtics’ run, averaging 10.0 points and 6.8 rebounds, with 1.4 blocks. He shot 51.9% from the field, but his 3-point shooting fell to just 19.0% and he shied away from attempting those shots.
His offense sank in the final seven games of the Celtics’ run, when he averaged 7.4 points and 7.6 rebounds.
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