The Boston Celtics have one of the richest legacies in North American sports, but they haven’t been able to get over that hump in recent times to clinch another NBA championship. In recent years, their two young stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led them to multiple appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, now, it seems the time has finally come for Boston to consider splitting the duo.
This is not meant to be an indictment of Tatum and Brown’s talent level, but more a realization that the Celtics will likely be better off choosing one over the other in the long run. They have been a perennial playoff team in Boston, but it has become painfully evident that these Celtics may have already peaked in the east, with Tatum and Brown leading the way in the past two seasons.
Individually Tatum and Brown are two of the league’s rising young stars, averaging over 24 ppg this season. Both players were picked by the lottery and were actually selected third overall in consecutive years (2016 and 2017) by the Celtics. At the time, Boston probably thought they had put together the dynamic duo that would make the franchise compete for the championships within the next five years. Things did not turn out exactly like this.
Since the two joined in 2017, the Celtics have won fewer games each season. This isn’t solely about the Tatum-Brown pairing, but some faults undoubtedly fall on their shoulders as the best dogs. Former team president / general manager Danny Ainge is completely guilty of building this team. But he’s not around anymore, so now Brad Stevens is forced to figure it out.
Tatum and Brown are in their fifth season as teammates and have not been able to improve on their first season together: 55-27 and a seven-game Eastern Conference final against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last season was the worst, with the Celtics finishing 2020-21 with a .500 record and the Brooklyn Nets dominating them in the first round of the playoffs. This season, the Celtics are two games under .500 as the midpoint approaches. There has been some change in Boston in recent years, but the core of Tatum, Brown, and even Marcus Smart has remained.
I think we’ve seen this assembled Celtics crew go as far as expected. As talented as Tatum and Brown are, their styles are somewhat similar and aren’t the best compliment. Offense doesn’t always flow in Boston, and when things get tough, they tend to go back to the isolation ball like they did against the Knicks a few nights ago, wasting a 25-point lead in the second half. This year, the Celtics are close to .500 with a 19-21 record sitting 10th in the east.
Now is the time for Boston to go ahead and make a deal for one of their young stars. I feel that if they had to choose, the Celtics would trade Brown and keep Tatum. Boston could get a nice booty for Brown. Maybe a player or two, along with at least one first-round pick. At this point, the Celtics have nothing to lose, so they might as well call Daryl Morey Philly on Ben Simmons. Brown, Smart, another player, and a draft pick could make it. Knowing Morey and her high commercial expectations, probably not, but it’s worth a phone call with the trade deadline in a few weeks’ time. Damian Lillard is another obvious one path, but the Blazers are such a mess as a franchise at the moment that it might be even more difficult to pull off that deal.
What do you think LeBron James and the Lakers would give up right now for Brown? Maybe Anthony Davis? Certainly, Russell Westbrook at this stage. I’m pretty confident none of these scenarios will work out, but the Celtics need to get things back in order quickly. Stevens has a hell of a job in the next year or two to get the franchise back on track. If that happens, it will probably be less Tatum or Brown. It’s time to cut the bait and move on.