The Celtics and Spurs made a deadline day move that will send Josh Richardson, a 2022 first-round pick and a future pick swap to San Antonio and Derrick White to Boston, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. In addition, the Celtics will send Romeo Langford to the Spurs, per Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
After a slow start to the season, the Celtics — who also acquired Daniel Theis on Thursday — have turned things around as of late. They’ve won six games in a row, and 13 of their last 17 to climb up into seventh place in the Eastern Conference. But despite the recent hot streak, the front office was clearly not content with the state of the roster. There’s been a sense since the start of the season that they needed more playmaking, which is why they’ve flipped Richardson for White, who is a better facilitator.
The Spurs, meanwhile, continue to accumulate picks and young players for their rebuild. Earlier in the day they got a first-round pick from the Toronto Raptors in the Goran Dragic trade (though it’s possible that pick becomes two second rounders), and now they’ve got another one from the Celtics. They’ll also get a look at Langford, who has shown some flashes but has never been able to stay healthy.
Let’s grade the trade.
Boston receives: Derrick White
San Antonio receives: Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, 2022 first-round pick (1-4 protected), 2028 first-round pick swap with Celtics
Celtics trade grade: B+
In one of the few moves the Celtics made last offseason, they acquired Josh Richardson in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks, then immediately gave him a one-year extension. The latter, in particular, was a bit surprising, though less so if you viewed it as a prelude to a future trade. Now, the Celtics have indeed moved Richardson, sending him to San Antonio along with a first-round pick for Derrick White.
Richardson was well liked in the locker room, had improved since a rough start to the season and was shooting a career-high 39.7 percent from 3-point land. However, he was just too inconsistent on offense for a team that really struggles on that side of the ball at times. He had two points in 42 minutes over the Celtics’ last two games, and went scoreless in 15-plus minutes on four different occasions this season. In addition, White’s skillset fits better with this Celtics roster, and he’s signed to a long-term deal through 2025.
For much of the season, one of the biggest criticisms of the Celtics has been that they don’t have at true point guard. Marcus Smart has recently been intent on proving he can fill that role, and his play been instrumental in the Celtics’ turnaround. Still, the team needed more playmaking, and that’s one of the main reasons Boston went and got White.
The 27-year-old is averaging a career-high 5.6 assists per game this season, and is tied for 13th in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.15). On that front it’s worth noting the Celtics are 14-6 when they have at least 25 assists this season, and 17-19 when they fail to reach that number. When the ball moves, the Celtics play better and tend to win. White will help keep the ball moving.
Furthermore, White is a tremendous perimeter defender who can guard multiple positions and will fit right in on a Celtics team that has leaned on its defense this season. In this recent 13-4 run, the Celtics have a 99.7 defensive rating which is top of the league and nearly five points per 100 possessions better than any other team during that span. They are completely smothering teams, and will now be even better. White and Smart will be perhaps the best defensive backcourt in the league.
The one main downside to this deal from the Celtics’ perspective is that they had to give up a good amount of draft capital to get it done. They now won’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft, and also gave up a 2028 first-round pick swap. There’s always a bit of risk involved when you’re dealing with picks that far in the future.
Spurs trade grade: B+
There’s not as much to discuss on the Spurs’ side of things here. White is a good player, but he’s better suited as a fourth or fifth option on a playoff team than as one of the main guys in a rebuild. He’s also just not that young anymore, and the Spurs can clear his long-term deal off the books. Richardson could also be flipped somewhere else in the summer, but we’ll have to wait and see on that. The Spurs will also get a look at Romeo Langford, a former first-round pick who has just not been able to stay healthy.
The main point of this deal for the Spurs was acquiring more draft picks. They added the Celtics’ first rounder this year, which figures to be in the late teens or early 20s, and also have the rights to swap firsts in 2028. Add those to the first rounder they got from the Raptors in the Thad Young deal, and the Spurs suddenly have a nice little stash of picks. That should be a big help as they try to turn things around in the next few years.