The Boston Celtics will face something of a conundrum this offseason as new team president Brad Stevens attempts to improve his roster.
Boston is led, of course, by a pair of young stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, both of whom are locked into long-term contracts with the team. It’s normally a great situation to be in, except in the Celtics’ case, their massive salaries — combined with that of Kemba Walker — could make roster upgrades difficult to come by.
There’s a growing desire among the Beantown faithful to see Walker dealt, which would definitely ease some of the cap burden. However, moving backcourt players over 30 with bad knees and pricy, multi-year deals is no small task.
So, Stevens and his brain trust are likely up against a fork in the road. And going in one particular direction could see one of the Cs’ current stars flourishing elsewhere.
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There are a couple of ways that Stevens can approach making his team better.
One option would be to get whatever talent he can using the team’s limited resources and hope its enough to improve on a .500 season and first-round exit. The path would be difficult, as he’d essentially be limited to cap exception deals in free agency, the upcoming NBA Draft and/or moving one or more of the Celtics support players.
Barring a massive level of internal growth from younger players like Rob Williams, Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith, or the Cs’ stars reaching an even higher level, it’s difficult to see this course of action yielding a substantially better result than what happened in ’20-21.
Another option would be to trade either Tatum or Brown and construct a new core around the player that remains. Moving either player would be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s likely going to take a substantial offer from Stevens to net a game-changing return from another team.
Alas, splitting up Boston’s All-Star duo may be his best path to instigating a real turnaround. And given Tatum’s superstar turn to end the season, Brown could be the likeliest to go in that scenario.
However, an ESPN analyst and former Celtic thinks Stevens would ultimately rue the day he parted with Brown if he ends up doing so.
Hollins Predicts Massive Growth for Brown
On Wednesday, ESPN analyst and 10-year NBA veteran Ryan Hollins — who briefly balled with Boston in 2012 — was discussing the Celtics on The Zach Gelb Show.
As relayed by WEEI, Hollins thinks that Stevens would be unwise to break Tatum and Brown up just for the sake of it. In his estimation, doing so would mean watching Brown become a legitimate superstar for some other squad.
“Jaylen Brown scares me, because I think if he goes, Jaylen Brown is going to have a James Harden-like explosion,” Hollins said. “And I don’t think that he’s ever going to have that under Jayson Tatum.”
Hollins also spoke glowingly about Brown’s game, while reiterating what could happen if he’s dealt.
“He can shoot, he can score. He can sink his hips into his crossovers, which means he moves as if he’s a guy who’s 5-foot-10, 5-foot-11. He’s got that type of mobility. And I think he could have a James Harden-like explosion, and it just may not happen with the Celtics.”
On whether or not there was a player out there he would trade Brown for, Hollins namechecked L.A. Clippers star Paul George. However, he was careful to note that George is an older player and leaned into the notion that there may not be a suitable deal to make.
Still, he conceded that a Tatum-Brown pairing may not be the way for Boston to go.
“I just don’t think that Tatum and Brown are going to be the best fit. I think Brown is a star on another team and in another organization.”