Celtics bring in Zeller, Thornton in a 'good deal'

Celtics bring in Zeller, Thornton in a 'good deal'
July 10, 2014, 9:00 pm
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ORLANDO, Fla. — There's no need to sugarcoat it.

There isn't a single position on the floor that the Boston Celtics couldn't use a little more help at heading into what they hope will be an improvement over last season's club which won just 25 games.

Boston addressed a couple of those roster weaknesses via a three-team deal with Cleveland and Brooklyn that became official on Thursday with the Celtics landing 7-foot center Tyler Zeller from the Cavs and 6-4 shooting guard Marcus Thornton from Brooklyn.

In addition to the players, Boston also picked up a 2016 first-round pick from Cleveland that's top-10 protected.

"We're short on centers," said Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "And we like the way he (Zeller) runs the court. He can make shots, compliment our guard play. A 7-footer that knows how to play is very good."

As for Thornton, Ainge added, "Marcus can bring us some scoring; probably a bench scorer. And can really get hot in stretches; had a 42-point game last year."

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens echoed Ainge's comments in discussing the two newest members to the Celtics family.

"I thought it was a good deal for us," Stevens said. "You get a pick out of the trade and you use your trade exception to do that. Obviously you get a proven scorer (in Thornton), a guy that's scored a lot of points in a short amount of time in this league. And you get in Tyler Zeller a big, strong center that can also stretch the defense with his skill. He can run the floor. I thought it was all a positive from our standpoint."

And while it wouldn't surprise anyone if one or both players were on the move soon to help facilitate Boston adding an even bigger impact player, Ainge said he has no plans to trade either player.

Stevens said he has spoken with both players, and each seems excited about the opportunity to play in Boston.

That makes sense when you consider both players are coming off down seasons with their respective former clubs.

Zeller averaged 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game in his first season, good enough to be named to the NBA's all-rookie second team. But in his second season, Zeller's role diminished and naturally so did his numbers.

This past season, he averaged 5.7 points and four rebounds while making nine starts which was a significant dip from his 55 games started as a rookie.

Thornton has averaged 13.4 points per game throughout his career, but could only chip in 9.8 points per game while splitting time between Sacramento and the Nets last season.

In Brooklyn, Thornton was surrounded by all-star players such as Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and former Celtic Paul Pierce who as you might expect were going to get more shots than Thornton.

But with the Celtics, Thornton will have a chance to be more of an impact scorer even with Boston's already-crowded backcourt.

"Marcus can score," said Stevens.

This is something Stevens knows all too well when you consider Thornton's LSU team knocked off Steven's Butler team, 75-71, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

In that game, Thornton led all scorers with 30 points.

"Anytime you think about your team and you think about what your needs are, putting the ball in the basket helps a lot," Stevens said. "Marcus will compliment the guys we have well back there."