The Chicago Bulls, one of the most active players at the trade deadline, agreed to a three-team deal with the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics to acquire center Daniel Theis, guard Javonte Green and forward Troy Brown Jr. In exchange, the Wizards received center Daniel Gafford and forward Chandler Hutchison, while the Celtics took bigs Luke Kornet and Moritz Wagner.
How much help can Theis provide a retooling Bulls team, and how did both the Wizards and Celtics do in the deal?
Kevin Pelton hands out trade grades for all three teams.
Bulls get: Daniel Theis, Javonte Green, Troy Brown Jr., cash considerations
Celtics get: Luke Kornet and Moritz Wagner
Wizards get: Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchison
Get more trade grades from Pelton here
Chicago Bulls: A
After adding Nikola Vucevic on Thursday, the Bulls figured to have a capable three-man frontcourt rotation with him and incumbent starters Lauri Markkanen and Thaddeus Young. They managed to add depth and insurance by picking up Theis as part of an expanded version of what was originally reported as a two-team trade with Washington.
When Chicago is at full strength, there might not be a lot of minutes for Theis. As long as he accepts that role, he’ll be great to have around as a fourth big man. Theis-Vucevic lineups might get a little clunky, but they’ve got enough spacing to survive — certainly more than the Theis-Thompson frontcourts we saw in Boston — and Theis should fit well alongside either other big man.
In the undercard, the Bulls did well to heist Brown from the Wizards, whose coaching staff never quite seemed to recognize his value. Still just 21, Brown has shown potential as a perimeter defender and playmaker. The swing skill, naturally, is shooting. Brown is just a 33% career 3-point shooter, limiting his value. Ideally, Chicago would put him out there with shooting-heavy bigs such as Markkanen and Vucevic, allowing Brown to play more in space rather than spotting up.
In Brown and Theis, I would argue the Bulls landed the two best players in this trade. Yet somehow they’re also getting the cash involved — $1.3 million from the Celtics and $250,000 from the Wizards, per Ryan McDonough of Radio.com.
Boston Celtics: C-
The Celtics gave up Theis, a starter in nearly all of the past two seasons, to avoid paying the luxury tax after adding Evan Fournier earlier in the day Thursday. Boston could still go into the tax if Fournier and Jaylen Brown achieve enough of the incentives in their contracts for deep playoff runs (they both have incentives for reaching and making the NBA Finals), though at that point the Celtics would surely be happy to pay it.
Wagner is an interesting addition for Boston. He has shown promise at times during his three NBA seasons, knocking down the occasional 3-pointer (he’s at 30% for his career) and frequently taking charges (his 11 drawn in just 375 minutes tie for sixth most in the league, per NBA Advanced Stats tracking). Despite those skills, Wagner hasn’t shown enough to hold down a consistent spot in the rotation for a Wizards team playing without starting center Thomas Bryant due to injury, so expectations should be modest.
Most likely, the Celtics are turning over their center position to the duo of Tristan Thompson and Robert Williams. That’s a concern given their best lineups have featured Theis in the middle. Per my analysis of lineup data from NBA Advanced Stats, Boston has outscored opponents by 1.0 point per 100 possessions with Theis at center, as compared to a minus-0.1 net rating with Thompson and minus-3.4 per 100 possessions with Williams — admittedly hampered by playing with the Celtics’ weaker reserve units.
I’m excited to see what Williams can do with more minutes, and Theis wasn’t a great matchup against bigger opponents in the playoffs. But I think Boston’s front office is likely putting too much stock in how the Celtics were beaten in the paint in last year’s conference finals against the Miami Heat and not enough in the way they won two playoff rounds with Theis to get there — including sweeping Joel Embiid and the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers.
Washington Wizards: C+
I don’t like the wing part of this dual challenge trade for the Wizards. In swapping Brown for Hutchison, they’re getting three years older (Hutchison will turn 25 next month) and downgrading in playmaking. Hutchison isn’t even an upgrade in terms of Brown’s weakness, as he’s a 30% career 3-point shooter.
The Wizards do make up for that to some extent by getting a more valuable center. Gafford provides the kind of rim protection Washington needs, having swatted an impressive 8% of opponent 2-point attempts so far during his NBA career. He’s also an above-the-rim finisher who’s made 80% of his own 2-point attempts.
The downside is that Gafford often gets out of position to grab defensive rebounds by chasing blocked shots and also fouls frequently. Perhaps pairing him with Russell Westbrook will help solve that deficiency on the glass. NBA experience should also improve the 22-year-old Gafford’s decision-making as a defender. I see him as a capable backup center in the long term, on a favorable contract with two non-guaranteed seasons after this one at a total of $3.8 million.