Heading into this season, everybody expected the Boston Celtics to be positioning themselves for a run at a star free agent in the summer.
Brad Stevens, who had just moved into his new role as President of Basketball Operations, continually preached the importance of financial flexibility and was making roster moves to align with that concept.
Yet, shortly before the season started, Stevens extended Marcus Smart and Robert Williams, all but killing the Celtics’ path to a max contract slot in the off-season. Sure, the Celtics could still make a deal to acquire a star, but it would be via trade, or sign-and-trade rather than a straight contract offer to an unattached player.
Now, just days before the start of the post-season, it looks like Stevens made the right call. Marcus Smart is having a career year as Boston’s lead guard, and Robert Williams is an undoubted addition to an NBA All-Defense team this year. The trade deadline deals to add Derrick White and Daniel Theis to the roster are also looking like masterstrokes.
Suddenly, it doesn’t look like the Celtics need, or want, a third star on their roster, and according to Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey, that’s a good thing, because the Celtics look poised to miss out on long-term trade target Bradley Beal.
“Bradley Beal would have to decline $37.3 million to enter free agency, but he’s young and good enough to make that a legitimate possibility,” Bailey wrote, “There are just too many hurdles to think that Beal will be with someone other than the Washington Wizards at the start of 2022-23. If he’s on an expiring contract and things go poorly again, though, the next trade deadline could be the end of Beal’s run with the Wizards.”
If we operate under Bailey’s logic, then we’re not saying that Beal will never end up in Boston, just that it won’t be in the upcoming season.
Celtics Don’t Need Another Star in The Mix
When you look at how this Celtics team has played since the turn of the year, the evidence suggests that the team needs additions on the fringes, not at the core. Previous iterations of this Celtics team have struggled with a third mouth to feed. We’ve seen Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, and Gordon Hayward all come and go without making much of an impact, while Terry Rozier had to leave for a bigger opportunity despite proving himself in the playoffs.
Beal is an elite scorer and exceptional play finisher, but with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum the clear alpha’s on this Celtics team, adding another elite talent could upset the applecart. Sure, Tatum would get the opportunity to play with his best friend, and that would appease the rising superstar, but would Brown feel the same way, considering he’s the one who would have to take a back seat?
Then there’s what Boston would have to give up in a deal. Marcus Smart, Derrick White, and Al Horford are all on extremely tradeable contracts, as is Robert Williams, and if the Washington Wizards are trading away their franchise player, you can expect most of those names to be part of the exchange.
After Stevens has spent his first season in the front office building a roster that’s capable of contending for a championship over the next four to five years, it doesn’t seem likely that he will tear that roster down to add another ball-dominant scorer. But of course, those plans could change if the Celtics fail to defeat the Brooklyn Nets in a potential first-round series.
Tatum Classes Beal As a Brother
Tatum views Beal as an older brother. The pair went to the same high school and Beal played a huge role in Tatum’s development from a young age, with the Wizards’ star taking time out of his busy schedule to check in on Tatum’s development through high school.
“Brad is the big brother that I didn’t have. I remember, it was either my freshman or sophomore year, like one of my spring breaks. Brad just texted me, he was like, ‘Yo, ask your mom, can you come up here and just chill with me and come to a couple of games?’ I’m like, alright bet, I’m out. I went up to D.C., I spent like a week with him, he and his brothers went to a couple of games,” Tatum said during a recent episode of the Draymond Green podcast.
However, Tatum is also a fierce competitor, and will likely understand that adding his best friend to the Celtics rotation in the off-season is a potential pitfall the team should avoid, especially if they can improve their bench unit and continue to develop their young talent.
Right now, all indicators are pointing to Beal returning to the Wizards, either for the final season of his contract or to sign an extension. But, this is the NBA, and things change very quickly, so we can’t totally rule out the notion of Beal donning Celtics green in the near future.