The Boston Celtics have been filling out their roster all offseason, and adding former Cleveland Cavaliers forward Lamar Stevens might be their final move.
On Friday, Stevens agreed to a deal with the C's just ahead of training camp next week. While the Philadelphia native will have to fight to remain on the team, he has a fair shot given his prior experience and defensive ability.
With the loss of Marcus Smart and Grant Williams–two guys who pride themselves on defense–the Celtics forfeited some of their identity. This move for Stevens is an attempt to bring in more toughness without going over budget.
In Cleveland, Stevens wasn't a household name. However, he stayed there for three seasons and helped the Cavs develop a formidable defense. At 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, Stevens undoubtedly has the size to make life difficult for whoever he's guarding. Plus, he had a defensive rating of 111.1 through 62 games last season, which was the best mark on a team that had the best defensive rating in the entire league, per StatMuse.
Essentially, Stevens is great enough on that side of the ball for his talent to be recognizable on an already elite defensive team. On offense, the Penn State product isn't as skilled, yet his numbers aren't too shabby. During the 2022-23 campaign, he averaged 5.3 points per game while playing 18.1 minutes per outing.
Shooting isn't his forte, as he's never shot above 31.6 percent from deep in his professional career. Even in college, his best percentage was a mediocre 34.4 percent in his freshman year. But, the C's don't really need a ton of extra shooters. While head coach Joe Mazzulla likes to prioritize the three-ball, Celtics like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Sam Hauser, Malcolm Brogdon, and more will already be launching from deep. Simply put, Stevens doesn't need to constantly shoot to fit in Boston. Excelling on defense and scoring off the bench every now and then should be enough.
In order to make the team, Stevens will mostly have to compete with recently acquired forward Oshae Brissett. Like Stevens, Brissett has size (6-foot-7, 210 pounds), defensive talent, and a similar amount of time spent in the NBA. Yet, the Canadian is a better shooter and on a potential two-year deal with the C's. Jumping Brissett in the depth chart could be difficult, but Stevens went from an undrafted rookie who started zero games to a solid, rostered role player, so he clearly won't be backing down from any adversity.
As for the Celtics' strategy, it makes sense for them to have a more defensive-minded forward who can play alongside offensive-minded stars like Tatum and Brown. Stevens let Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell go to work in Cleveland, which shows that he's used to sharing the court with scorers who need the ball a lot. If he can help the C's regain their defensive prowess from 2022, Stevens could be in Boston for the foreseeable future.