With two star players at the Under-25 club, the Boston Celtics are in a position that many NBA teams could envy. Either way, business rumors surround this team like vultures. This is what tends to happen when a team is seriously underperforming. At 18-19, the Celtics are just outside the NBA playoffs at ninth place in the Eastern Conference. Defensively, they were strong, with their defensive rating of 108.97 ranking ninth in the league. Unfortunately, stops only matter when you can’t generate your own baskets. The C’s offensive rating of 110.03 barely ranks 19th overall in the Association.
It’s especially confusing for a team that trains two young superstars in Jayson tatum and Jaylen brown. The former is averaging 25.6 points per game, while the latter averages 24.3. Obviously, the Jays aren’t getting enough help, but with a roster largely devoid of consumable trade chips, it’s fair to wonder how GM Brad Stevens can get it for them. On the flip side, the Celtics would invariably receive a massive comeback if they made Jaylen Brown (the presumptive trade piece) available. Is it time for the Celtics to break up this star-studded duo?
Should the Boston Celtics break up their star duo?
On the one hand, it sounds like a rash and premature decision. Tatum is 23 and Brown is 25. Their previous successes (back-to-back conference finals appearances in 2017-18 and 2018-19) may have weighed on this group of unreasonable expectations. On the flip side, questions of whether Tatum and Brown are a viable couple on the pitch remain valid. Here’s a look at the arguments for and against breaking the two stars.
The Celtics affair between Tatum and Brown
If there’s one good concern about this star-studded duo, it’s redundancy in their respective playstyles. In 2021-2022, Tatum has an attendance percentage of 18.4%. That’s a solid rating for a winger, but with Brown posting a 14.3% rating in the same category, there isn’t much play between the two.
This is not a damning review of either player. Tatum is a special marker. His 53.1% True Shooting% (TS%) this season is a career low, but the Celtics can safely assume he will decline to the average on that front. Any basketball watcher knows that Tatum is a real threat on three levels. Few of the National Basketball Association players can create their own shots as easily as he does. Meanwhile, Brown fits the archetypal two-way wing that teams covet across the league. In short, they are two quality NBA players.
This does not mean that their skills cannot overlap. With their two most used players so hesitant to give up the rock, the Celtics rank 21st in the NBA in assists per game (22.8). This probably explains their generally below average offensive attack. Possessions regularly turn into late attempts at seclusion in Bean Town. The offense has a turn-based feel that usually doesn’t bode well for generating baskets.
These Boston Celtics need someone to stir their drink, but the trading market doesn’t inspire much hope unless Brown is in the Celtics’ block. Marcus Smart might be an intriguing business chip, but he won’t make the Celtics a star playmaker. Robert williams is a prospect with huge potential, but his rim protection and rebound are already perfectly suited alongside Tatum and Brown. At 24, he’s projecting himself as a long-term play for this team, whether or not they leave Brown.
It’s hard to imagine how the Celtics can dramatically improve this roster in the short term without doing just that. It could just mean that they need a longer term direction.
The case against the Celtics that separates Tatum and Brown
The arguments against breaking up this all-star Boston Celtics duo are simple. They’re unlikely to trade Tatum, period. They are also unlikely to receive anyone in a Brown trade as good as Jaylen Brown himself.
The conversation can change if Bradley Beal officially finds its way to the trade bloc. He’s arguably as gifted a goalscorer as either of the Celtics ‘stars, and his 30.8% assist would diversify that Celtics’ attack. Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine what the Celtics would receive for Brown that would put them in a better position than they are.
Ben simmons was mentioned as a possibility (to anyone’s surprise). He is by far the most gifted playmaker named in this article so far. On the other hand, he projects himself as a bad fit alongside Robert Williams. The Celtics could explore new measures to maximize a squad built around Simmons and Tatum. Myles Turner and Christian wood are both stretch fives that seem to be available. The C’s may be able to return either Marcus Intelligent or a combination of their young players and picks for one or the other.
It is a tempting possibility. It just seems a little unnecessarily complicated. The match between Simmons and Tatum makes sense on paper, but comes with no guarantees. Returning Brown, Smart, and project capital to Simmons and Turner would be a complete overhaul of a team that, again, just made back-to-back trips to the conference finals.
The Boston Celtics may not need to take such drastic action. For example, a low-cost player like Ricky Rubio would add playing dynamics and floor space to this team while still allowing them to keep both Tatum and Brown. Jalen brunson is a free agent after this season. There are possibilities. The Celtics may need a game keeper, but it may make more sense to add one to their dynamic duo rather than swap out one in the process of acquiring one.
At the moment, it seems more logical for the Celtics to have a little patience with Tatum and Brown. They might be below expectations this season, but with a few small changes to the roster that might not be true for long.
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