When you think about the best teams in the NBA, both past and present, they all have one thing in common: A big three.
It’s no coincidence that the Boston Celtics‘ last banner came courtesy of the Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce trio back in 2008. Well, according to Heavy.com’s NBA insider, Steve Bulpett, the Celtics might have the opportunity to create another big three during the off-season.
“Yeah, I think you know when guys like Donovan Mitchell, they see other people moving at will almost. And if the Jazz hit a dead-end this season, then I think there will be talk about moving this piece moving that piece, and it won’t just be coming from players. You know, I think there’s going to be a certain sense upstairs that they’re going to do something else,” Bulpett told Heavy.com‘s, Sean Deveney.
“And when you have guys who have value, then you know that’s when to make to move, and if what they have as a collection is not going to get past what’s ahead of them in the West, then you got to really think about that,” he said.
Mitchell has long been a pipe dream for most Celtics fans. The 25-year-old guard is known to be close with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, fits the team’s timeline, and would provide a solid third scorer and secondary ball-handler for the Celtics. Over his first five seasons in the league, Mitchell is averaging 23.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game, while being part of a high-octane Utah Jazz offense, the only question is whether he could adjust to a third option role.
What Would a Package Look Like?
Wanting Mitchell is one thing, finding a package that works for both teams is another, and that’s where Bulpett thinks any potential deal would likely cost the Celtics one of their All-Star wings, which would logically mean sending out Jaylen Brown.
“I think he’d fit but you know, I guess the obvious the beginning of a deal would be Marcus Smart,” Bullpett noted. “But you know, I think that, but what else could the Celtics give up? You know, they hadn’t really developed the young guys to the point where they are hugely valuable. Aaron Nesmith isn’t going to get you anything and Payton Pritchard might get you a little something, but not really what I think he would get you if you had played them all a year.”
Bulpett added, “I think his head is the kind of basketball mind that would fit and find a way to fit with those guys. But I think you’d also see the Jazz saying, okay, yeah, we’ll trade you Donovan Mitchell, but we’re gonna want Jaylen Brown. That’d be holding out for some like that they’re going to I think they need more than Marcus Smart.”
Moving Brown might be the most logical move, but it would negate Boston’s reasoning for making a deal in the first place. Sending one star out to bring another back in only makes sense when the stars you have aren’t gelling, and that’s not the case for the Celtics. With that in mind, Deveney came up with a different package, along with some solid reasoning on why the Jazz may be tempted to take the Celtics up on their offer.
“There’s probably a handful of teams in the league that that really wouldn’t want to trade for Robert Williams. And the Jazz would be one if, in fact, they kept Rudy Gober as well, you know, obviously, they could trade Gobert, too, if they’re doing a complete tear-down, maybe you’d take Rob Williams.
So it’d be interesting to see Mitchell with those two guys, Jaylen and Jayson. I think maybe Marcus Smart and Rob Williams or how about Marcus Smart-Derek White, double down on giving them some guards, and a draft pick, and there you go, Utah. How do you like that?” Deveney said.
Following Bulpett and Deveney’s discussion, we have two potential trade packages that could end up landing Mitchell in Boston.
Utah receives: Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and possibly draft assets
Boston receives: Donovan Mitchell
Utah receives: Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Robert Williams, and possibly draft assets
Boston receives: Donovan Mitchell
Celtics Have Had Issues Building a New Big Three
When you think back to recent iterations of this Celtics team, you can pinpoint the multiple strokes of misfortune that have hindered the front office when trying to build a new big three. First, there was Gordon Hayward, who struggled for health and form following a horrific injury during his first game in green.
Then the Kyrie Irving saga occurred, and finally, Kemba Walker came and left. With each of these players, one theme carried throughout the seasons: Can the Celtics convince one of their stars to be a third option. They came closest with Walker, who was keen to lighten his workload after spearheading the Charlotte Hornets for most of his career, but the damage had been done and knee issues reared their head before the end of his first season in Boston.
Perhaps that’s why other teams have begun to lean into “duo’s” rather than a big three. If you look at the Philadelphia 76ers, they have Joel Embiid and James Harden as their “big two” while Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris are interchangeable third options – they’re currently considered the favorites in the Eastern Conference.
Still, every team in the NBA would love to have three bona fide stars on their roster, especially when all of them are still a couple of years outside of their prime. Furthermore, Mitchell is only in the first year of a new contract, so the Celtics would have him under control for at least another four seasons – that’s plenty of time for the team to challenge for a championship. So, it would seem that Boston’s best hope is for the Utah Jazz to implode during the upcoming playoffs, and for the front office to hit the reset button.
Unfortunately, Mitchell will most likely remain a pipe dream for Celtics fans,