The luxury of having two All-Stars under 25 years old on the same team comes with a price — lofty expectations.
And while the 2020-21 Boston Celtics haven’t come close to exceeding the expectations bestowed upon a team employing All-Stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the results — a slightly above .500 record (18-17) — comes as a surprise for NBA scouts and executives across the league.
“That’s shocking,” an Eastern Conference scout told Tim Bontemps, per ESPN. “They have more talent than their record would indicate.”
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NBA Western Conference Executive On Kemba Walker: ‘He Can Still Provide Value’
For the Celtics, it’s not quite that simple.
“The injuries and everything else, I think, have worked against them, for sure,” an Eastern Conference executive said, per ESPN, “and especially if Kemba is not Kemba.”
Lately, that hasn’t been the case. Averaging 24.7 points while shooting at a 44.5% clip from the floor in his past four outings, this is the best version of Walker that we’ve seen all year long.
“He can still provide value,” a Western Conference executive said, per ESPN. “But is he worth $35 million? Is he worth that number? That’s tough [to build around] if he isn’t.”
Still, if the Celtics are worried about Walker’s health in the long-run and ultimately don’t believe this year’s team can compete for a title then their issues are bigger than what meets the eye.
“You’d have thought after the playoffs he’d have come out and had a really good start to the year,” the exec said, per ESPN. “That [he hasn’t] has surprised me.”
Either way, one week of excellence is encouraging, especially with NBA’s trading season just around the corner.
NBA Eastern Conference Executive: ‘You Have To Do Something To Keep Your Stars Placated And Show That You’re Trying’
If Kemba’s unable to maintain this high-level production is now the best time for Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to cut ties with Brad Stevens’ starting point guard?
One league executive is saying yes.
“There comes a time where you have to do something to keep your stars placated and show that you’re trying, especially when they’re young and early in their primes,” the East executive said, per ESPN. “You have to make that commitment to them.”
Fair point. However, it’s still too soon. Or, maybe too late is the better way of putting it.
Trading Walker won’t make this year’s Celtics team any better, and if it’s for only the sole purpose of appeasing Tatum and Brown then that’s asinine, especially considering their respective max-deals. Why is this deemed necessary when one star’s contract (Tatum) hasn’t even kicked in while the ink on the other star’s deal (Brown) still isn’t dry? Tatum and Brown are both signed through 2024.
Is it peculiar for a star to want out of an organization years before the end of their contract? No, that’s certainly a possibility down the road but if Ainge were to ship out Walker for — what most likely is going to be of lesser value — it would dramatically decrease the chances of a deep playoff run, thus pissing Tatum and Brown off.
Celtics’ Danny Ainge: ‘We Don’t Really Know Who This Team Is Yet’
Even if you try to convince the tandem that the move is best for long-term success, that’s going to be a very hard sell to two stars that came one victory short of a trip to the 2020 NBA Finals.
Moreover, after 30+ games, this year’s team hasn’t found its identity.
“I feel like our group is pretty together,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, per ESPN. “Guys are working hard still, and I feel like we don’t really know who this team is yet.”