Are Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown critiqued too harshly due to their early career success?
To say either Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum were consensus top 3 picks would be revisionist history. In the 2016 NBA draft, Ben Simmons was the consensus #1 pick and Brandon Ingram was the #2 pick. Then you had a group of six players that could conceivably go in any order. You had Dragan Bender who was #3 on most boards and Kris Dunn who was the player teams wanted to trade for. The Bulls and Wolves had serious trade talks about Chicago trading Jimmy Butler to Minnesota for their #5 pick to draft Dunn. As always, Danny Ainge was also involved in these Butler trade talks. The Celtics had Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier already, so if they drafted Dunn that was a sign Ainge had completed a deal for Butler.
Boston drafted Jaylen Brown instead, Phoenix took Bender, and Minnesota did in fact draft Dunn, but ended up keeping him (well until they traded him a year later with Lavine and their FRP (Lauri) for Butler. Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray, and Marquese Criss rounded out the rest of the top 8. While Jaylen only had a small rotation role his rookie year, Boston still made the Eastern Conference Finals, behind a nice mix of veterans and young players.
Boston had also won the lottery and had cap space to add a max free agent. Markelle Fultz while he wasn't the name Simmons was the year prior was the heavy favorite to be picked #1. Until he got injured/developed whatever mental block prevented him from shooting 3's, Fultz was a pretty sure bet to be a perennial All-Star. Lonzo was going #2 to the Lakers and the Celtics had to decide between the polished Jayson Tatum or the athletic Josh Jackson. Former Celtics assitant GM Ryan McDonough made things easy, by pulling off some shenanigans which resulted in Ainge and Stevens flying out to work Jackson out only for that to not happen. Boston then took Tatum and if you believe them they say they would have taken Jayson #1.
Despite injuries to the All-NBA point guard in Kyrie Irving who replaced Thomas and their max free agent all-star signing in Gordon Hayward, once again Boston made the Finals. And unlike Jaylen during his rookie campaign the year prior, Jayson Tatum not only had a major part in the rotation, but he was already getting top billing.
Fast forward to this year and you have a rather mediocre Celtics team (Current record of 34-31). Over the past two years, they made the conference semi finals once and another conference finals. They've also managed to lose a lot of front end talent in Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Terry Rozier, and Gordon Hayward, as well as rotation players in Theis, Morris, and Baynes. Yet the expectations by fans are higher than they've ever been post the KG/Pierce/Rondo era. Despite Hayward walking fans wanted more than just another Eastern Conference Finals appearance, and high expectations aren't a bad thing. They are very much a Boston Celtics thing. Boston of course is the only city to have won 17 championships. While 16 of them were from 1986 and prior, many fans still hold on to that high bar. And then young fans who grew up seeing the Patriots and Red Sox winning multiple championships with the Celtics 2008 and Bruins 2011 crowns thrown in there for good measure.
While some will undoubtedly call this making excuses for All-Stars in Tatum and Brown, is it possible we're looking at them from a much different lens than other young All-Stars? Could their early successes have spoiled us? Many All-NBA players take years to even make the playoffs. Looking at the standings, will there be outrage if Ja Morant loses in the play-in tournament? How about Zion not making the playoffs in either of his first two seasons? What about his teammate Brandon Ingram?
Karl Anthony Towns has only sniffed the playoffs one season and that had more to do with Jimmt Butler than him. Zach Lavine and Nikola Vucevic are both All-Stars and granted they have the excuses of joiningg forces very late in this season, but where are their playoff births on their resumes?
The Wizards have had to scratch and claw to get to the 10th seed. Where is all the criticism of Bradley Beal for never making the conference finals and missing the playoffs in other years. I know Boston media members suggested trading a Jay (and considerably more) to get Beal, so the Celtics can take the next step, but again look at Beal's resume. Or everyone who wants to trade one of the Jay's and the whole rest of the roster to team Towns with the remaining Jay... are you sure we don't become worse then?
Sabonis is another young All-Star that hasn't accomplished anything in the playoffs and his Pacers sit below Boston in the standings. Siakam looked great as the young big next to veterans like Kawhi, Lowry, Van Fleet, Gasol, and Ibaka, but on his own he can't lead a team anywhere.
Even the top two team the Nets and Sixers have stars who have failed quite a bit. The Cavs didn't make the playoffs with Kyrie Irving until LeBron James returned (and they added Kevin Love). I don't see any conference championships out of Embiid and Simmons. Like K.A.T. in Minnesota, the Sixers haven't won anything in the playoffs without Jimmy Butler. Embiid couldn't even win one first round game last year on his own and he's an MVP candidate.
One team stuck with their star and added to the team; The other blew it up
The talk that Philly needed to trade one of Simmons or Embiid hit a peak after last season. They could have panicked and given up a young stud, but instead they got a new GM who actually new how to put a team together. Who knew you couldn't play too high priced centers together and then play your max power forward at the 3. A GM who knew you could win with Simmons as long as you surrounded him with shooters like Seth Curry and not slashers and multiple bigs.
Now I love Doc Rivers and believe he's a great coach. And I can totally see the Sixers having less than 43 wins right now with Brett Brown still at the helm. But with that said, you give Brown this year's roster that actually fits and they'd still be very good and a top 3 Eastern Conference team.
Maybe, and this is just a suggestion, instead of living and dying depending on whether the Celtics win every game with this current flawed and constantly injured roster, fans might want to consider taking a breath every once in a while to enjoy the journey and maturation of Tatum and Brown. Both players continue to get better and better not just every season, but every month.
Even if Boston gets bounced in the play-in tournament it would be foolish to "blow up" this team as too many people suggest. Wait you think if you traded Tatum and Brown you'd be closer to a championship? Are the Rockets closer to a championship? Only reason the Pelicans aren't screwed is because they hit the lottery on Zion. You want the Celtics to tank for a few years hoping we hit on a Zion?
Everyone wanted to break up this duo after last year; Wonder if Philly fans are regretting keeping them as they sit atop the East
I feel like Grizzlies fans can watch Ja and win or lose enjoy the experience. Same for Pels fans with Zion. And man Wolves fans would kill to be the 7th seed this year or even to have a chance at the 10th seed. How about the team with the league's best record the Phoenix Suns? They finally broke their playoff drought. Imagine if they blew it up and traded Booker this offseason? No they instead added a Chris Paul.
I'm all for blow it up talk if your best players are declining stars on the wrong side of 30. But people should be enjoying watching Tatum and Brown. They’re kids. Larry Bird was their age his rookie year and that Boston team didn't make the Finals either. The Finals or bust talk should have been retired when Hayward joined all those other Celtics to have walked out that door with no return. This Celtics team has a couple great very young players who might get us a 4th seed or might fall in the play-in tournament. Sounds like a fairly similar situation to Luka the past couple years or Embiid/Simmons last year. And also sounds like a much more enviable position than a lot of the other All-Stars and All-NBA players named previously in this novel length post.
The result of being forced to "blow it up" because your older star demands a trade sucks; Blowing up a young team would also suck, but includes a hefty side of pure foolishness
Spider Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are the backbone of the other top team in the NBA. There were calls to break them up previously as well. Giannis didn't win jack his first few years. Not even Michael Jordan did. If you feel that Tatum and Brown not going far in this year's playoffs is the last straw and the team must be blown up, that's your prerogative. And you'll plenty of sports talk radio/tv analysts who will agree with you. But if you want to see the Celtics win another championship sooner rather than later and enjoy having talented players on your team, I'd consider taking a deep breath and just enjoy watching a couple of the most talented Celtics in the team's history (or if you're not a big Jaylen fan, at least in the past thirty years).
Now if you think Boston needs a new architect to build the right team around the Jay's like Philly decided with their young stars, then that's another thing. But that has nothing to do with the rest of this season. The amount of comments I see on social media that go something like "I'm so glad I gave up on this team," or "I'm so glad I stopped watching this team" is embarrassing.
Like wait, you watched the Dee Brown/ Dino Radja Celtics which had no chance of ever going deep in the playoffs and you were fine with them. And you watched the Pitino dumpster fire teams and stuck with the Celtics then, but can't handle watching young stars develop this year? You watched the teams that tanked for guys like Duncan, Oden, and Durant where you had to choose between rooting for a win that would only hurt your chances of ever being relevant again or rooting for a loss, but you can't stomach this team?
The league is full of young stars. Most don't make the conference finals. Many don't even make the playoffs
Would you prefer an overachieving team with a ceiling of the 2nd round max? You built around role player veterans like Avery Bradley, Olynyk, Evan Turner, and Jae Crowder. Because it actually would be very easy for Ainge to trade one or both of the Jay's and have a team of vets that you know won't underachieve, but you're not sniffing any conference finals, let alone NBA finals.
I'm not asking glass half empty people to suddenly become glass half full people. And before the green teamers get condescending the fact that you think every Celtic player is always the best in the world and should never be traded doesn't make you a better fan either. Boston had to trade Pierce and KG to get the picks that became Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. If Celtics fans want to be pessimistic that's their right as much as it is your's to over-inflate current player's values. Neither extreme side hols exclusivity rights on being a "real fan" and neither should simply dismiss someone with an opposing view as a "casual." Reality is we all want the Celtics to win. Whether Peter goes into the game nervous saying "that's a loss" or Paul goes into boasting "that's a win, both fans are rooting for the same thing.
Booker didn't sniff the playoffs his first 5 seasons: Suns could have "blown it up" this past offseason and traded him, but instead one shewd move later and they have the league's best record
But not watching the games I don't get. Unless you have a heart condition that makes the games dangerous this makes no sense. Not only are you missing Tatum and Brown excel, you're missing one of the Celtics all-time defenders and hustlers in Marcus Smart? And if you can't stand Smart, well maybe you like the rookie who plays nothing like a rookie in Payton Pritchard. And am I wrong, but have the Celtics been blessed with centers who can do some of the things Time Lord does regularly? Not that I recall. Bob Ryan called it even more strongly. The last time he saw a Celtics center who could do the athletic things Time Lord does was back when Bill Russell was G.O.A.T-ing it up on the parquet.
And even your deep rotation reserves like Romeo and Nesmith are super young guys with potential. This is not the Celtics team to hate. Who knows what you might see next? The way Tatum is trending I wouldn't put a 65 point or 70 point game out of the realm of possibilities. Would be a pity to miss that. And yes you'll jump back on board when these guys make the Finals down the road, and that's all well and good. Happens with most fan bases. But man you could be enjoying some fun basketball along the way. And whether Boston wins a game by 1 or loses by 1, it's a regular season game. Those two points shouldn't change your whole mood. And trust me if it was the NBA Finals, I'd be singing a different tune, but enjoy the moment just a bit. All these players people want the Celtics to blow up the team for have lost not just as much as the Jay's but more.
I'm watching all the remaining games of this Celtics season, just as I'd watch the remaining Kings or Pelicans games if they were my teams. And they don't even have a chance at making the playoffs. Neither did Celtics teams of the past that I watched all the way through.