One, would the Boston Celtics be a surefire title-contending team with Harden? And, two, might the Celtics win a title with its current team intact?
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It’s safe to say neither is anywhere close to a guarantee – which made the decision on the Harden possibility all the more difficult. Most Celtics fans seemed torn on the situation.
Decisions, Decisions: James Harden To Boston For Jaylen Brown Or No Harden To Celtics At All?
For most of the Celtics faithful, it would have stung to see their team trade away one half of a young, bright tandem in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Additionally, neither the Celtics nor the fan base was not sold on the idea of seeing Harden donning green-and-white and running isolation plays with Tatum and Kemba Walker standing around at TD Garden wondering if they were better off with the initial 2020-21 Celtics roster.
Maybe the end result of that Tatum-Brown roster trumps a team led by one of the game’s greatest scoring guards of all time. If the Celtics would have parted with Brown before ever finding out if a Tatum-Brown duo was destined for greatness would have been met with some regret.
Given the magnitude of the turmoil in Houston, the Rockets had to rush into a trade. That was never going to be the way Danny Ainge would approach a blockbuster.
Could the Celtics Have Gotten James Harden For Kemba Walker?
If Harden had been intriguing enough for Ainge, the only way he might have done a deal would be without splitting up his bright dynamic duo — and, instead, sending out All-Star guard Kemba Walker. Walker’s great reputation as a team leader and a tenacious scorer bode well with the likes of Rockets guard John Wall, even if it meant having one of the smaller backcourts in West.
The problem always was Walker’s bum left knee, which has been bothering him for more than a year now. It wouldn’t be the first time the Celtics parted ways with a player due to health concerns. In 2017, the well-documented split between Boston and Isaiah Thomas was a controversial move, to say the least, but it paved the way for the Celtics to land Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving.
Boston’s been fortunate but if this had been a similar situation where the Celtics could have unloaded Walker’s deal along with young role players and future draft picks to appease the Rockets, then Ainge would have jumped at the opportunity.
But in the end, the Rockets never valued Walker, even with some players and picks as sweeteners, as much as they valued Harden.
Celtics’ Danny Ainge Enjoying The Fruits Of His Labor In Jayson Tatum & Jaylen Brown
Unless Danny was sold that another championship would be a lock with Harden at the helm, he was always going to approach this situation with caution.
And, after their help guided the Celtics to two of the last three Eastern Conference finals, they’ve earned the right to steer the ship instead of bringing in a superstar like Harden to lead for them.
Also, let’s not forget how the Celtics earned the right to draft Tatum and Brown — through a deal most NBA GMs wouldn’t have the cojones to pull off. Ainge traded a pair of revered Hall of Famers in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets for a treasure trove of assets and first-round picks. Danny would not want to be on the opposite end of that kind of trade, giving up assets for one unpredictable star.
Averaging a combined 53.2 points per game while topping the Eastern Conference (7-3) standings, Tatum (26.9) and Brown (26.3) continue to ascend – which is why it’s best for the Celtics to see it through with these two.
In fact, there’s still plenty of time.