How Brad Stevens helped lift Celtics to NBA Finals in first year as executive

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How Brad Stevens helped lift Celtics to NBA Finals in just 365 days originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

A lot can change in a year. That's an understatement for Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics.

On June 2, 2021, Stevens was "promoted" from Celtics head coach to president of basketball operations, replacing Danny Ainge in a surprising shakeup spurred by a first-round playoff exit.

On June 2, 2022, the Celtics will face the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Finals.

Celtics Talk: Celtics in 7? Breaking down NBA Finals matchup against the Warriors | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Plenty of people deserve credit for Boston's remarkable turnaround, and many of them were here before Stevens moved from the bench to the front office. But that shouldn't diminish the impressive work Stevens has done to reconstruct a squad that just captured its first Eastern Conference title since 2010.

On the one-year anniversary of Stevens taking his new role, here's a look at the major moves he made in the last 365 days that helped the C's punch their ticket to the NBA Finals.

June 18, 2021: The Kemba Walker-Al Horford trade

Celtics receive: Al Horford, Moses Brown, 2023 second-round draft pick

Thunder receive: Kemba Walker, 2021 first-round pick, 2025 second-round pick

Stevens made arguably his most important move as an executive before he even hired a head coach.

Sixteen days into his tenure, Stevens offloaded Kemba Walker and his balky knee to the Thunder in a deal to bring back Al Horford. The deal received mixed reviews at the time, but now it looks genius.

Brad Stevens on Kemba Walker trade and 'road ahead with more options'

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OKC moved Walker to the Knicks, where the 32-year-old was out of New York's rotation by February. Walker's departure allowed Marcus Smart to thrive as a true No. 1 point guard for the first time in his career.

Meanwhile, the 35-year-old Horford has played like a 25-year-old this postseason, averaging 11.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists while saving the Celtics with a 30-point outburst in Game 4 of the East semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks.

June 28, 2021: Hiring Ime Udoka

You could also make the case that hiring Udoka was Stevens' best move to date.

The former NBA journeyman and Brooklyn Nets assistant wasn't the most high-profile candidate on the market, but his Team USA connection with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Smart helped convince Stevens make the hire.

What key factor played a big role in Brad Stevens hiring Ime Udoka?

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All Udoka has done since then is earn his players' full trust, break them of their many bad habits and oversee one of the greatest midseason turnarounds in NBA history.

Udoka's blunt coaching style drew skepticism when Boston floundered early, but Stevens stayed out of the way to watch his first-year head coach finish fourth in NBA Coach of the Year voting.

February 10, 2022: The Derrick White trade

Celtics receive: Derrick White

Spurs receive: Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, 2022 1st-round pick, 2028 first-round pick swap

Stevens raised a few eyebrows at the NBA trade deadline by parting with a first-round pick to acquire White, who was shooting 31.4 percent from 3 for a middling San Antonio team. But White's skill set -- strong ball movement, ability to create off the dribble and excellent perimeter defense -- fit exactly what the Celtics needed, and he was already familiar with Udoka from their time together with the Spurs and Team USA.

Brad Stevens: Derrick White a really good complement for Celtics core

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White's 3-point shot still needs work, but his addition played a key role in Boston's late-season turnaround, and he's also come into his own as a scorer with 57 points in his last four games. Richardson's departure also allowed Udoka to shorten his rotation and give more minutes to Tatum and Brown.

February 10, 2022: The Daniel Theis-Dennis Schroder trade

Celtics receive: Daniel Theis

Rockets receive: Dennis Schroder, Bruno Fernando, Enes Freedom

This one went through right before the deadline -- and Celtics fans should be glad it did. Theis gave Boston valuable frontcourt depth as a plug-and-play center and held his own against the Nets in the first round with Robert Williams sidelined.

The Schroder component might have been more impactful, though. His exit meant more minutes for Payton Pritchard, who responded by averaging nearly 10 points per game after the All-Star break. It also meant Smart was Boston's lone floor general, and the Celtics displayed much better ball movement late in the season with Smart running the show.

If Stevens earns a ring, he owes Ainge a thank-you note, as his predecessor drafted six of the eight players in Boston's current postseason rotation. But the Celtics wouldn't be in the NBA Finals if Stevens hadn't grabbed the reins and made four moves of consequence in the last calendar year.