The third option: Building a Big 3 (or Big 4) around Jaylen Brown

The two options we seem to hearing this summer for the Celtics are to build around the Jay's or to trade Jaylen Brown for a "better player" or "better fit" with Jayson Tatum. The problem with option #2 is all the names we hear are older players than Jaylen. Brown could very well outperform the player the Celtics acquired as soon as year 1.

Add in the fact that due to the collective bargaining agreement, older players on max contracts make significantly more than their younger counterparts, if you were to trade Jaylen for a Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard for example, you'd have less flexibility to build around them.

We've been consistent on Celtics Life that you should not trade Jaylen Brown. He's just 24 years old, is on a team friendly contract, has improved every year he's been in the NBA, and was the most consistent Celtic last season in a season marred by inconsistency.

Here are some of the reasons why fans and the media think the Celtics should trade Jaylen:

  1. He's not friends with Tatum. Boston needs to add a friend of Tatum's so he doesn't leave us.
  2. He's played with Tatum for 4 years now and the furthest the team has gotten is the Eastern Conference Finals.
  3. He's the only asset Boston has that's good enough to get a guy like Damian Lillard
  4. Tatum and Jaylen play the same position.

Ok let's now tackle these one by one. The first one might be the most annoying and is the one I'll spend the most time on. You don't need to be friends off the court to for a team to have great success. Larry Bird and Kevin McHale weren't friends. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen weren't friends. And even the combustible relationship of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant produced three championships. All together these non-friends own 27 championship rings.

"Win championships in Boston (or with the Celtics)" would have been more ideal

If Tatum and Jaylen despised each other like Kobe and Shaq grew to, then yes splitting them up if you can't remedy the situation would make some sense. But we've never seen or heard one word of any negativity between the two.

To the bigger issue of Tatum leaving us... grow a pair Generation Z Celtics fans. Tatum hasn't even begun his new 5 year max contract. You don't even need to worry about him forcing a trade for three years at a minimum. At that point during the summer of 2024 if Tatum is hinting at declining his player option and leaving during the summer of 2025, you can trade him for a king's ransom.

Just because Danny Ainge F'd up with Kyrie Irving and he walked doesn't mean you need to be on pins and needles that Tatum will walk for nothing. The only way that happens is if whoever is running the Celtics in 2024 foolishly doesn't trade Tatum if there are signs he might leave.

Now I love Tatum. Best player on the Celtics right now. Potential to not only become the greatest Celtic since Larry Bird, but also top three all-time with Russell if he remains here for his whole career. He's an amazing talent. But when I hear fans say/tweet things like, "Don't say anything critical of Tatum or he'll leave us!" or "We need to trade for one of his friends or he'll leave us," it makes me wonder at one year did Celtics fandom change to include such wusses?

These are the same "fans" that get triggered if you poke fun at rivals like Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, or LeBron James and say you must respect them. News flash: They get put on a pedestal by millions of strangers every day. They don't need additional ball washing from a rival's fan site.

These are the same fans that say screw Celtics pride or the team's logo. These aren't the same fans that the Celtics had back when Pierce and KG bled green for the Boston Celtics. Or even when Isaiah Thomas was here. These fools have popped up in the past few years. And the line between fans and media has become blurred during the social media era, so some of these fans are media (or have a big enough following to have the same reach).

We used to mock Heat, Cavs, or Lakers fans for just becoming fans of those teams when LeBron got there. The difference was Celtics fans were loyal to our team through the thick and thin. Didn't matter who was playing for them. Other teams' fan bases were bandwagon and came and went with superstars. Now somehow we have so called Celtics fans who care much more about certain players and very little about the team.

If Tatum walked in 4 years and told the Celtics and their fans to kiss his arse, they'd support him over the Celtics. They support Kyrie over the Celtics. They sided with a Brooklyn Net who lied and left the Celtics over Celtics legends like Kevin Garnett and Cedric Maxwell. They say things like "Just paint" when Kyrie stomped on the Celtics logo as his way of giving the Celtics and their fans the middle finger, but ironically get triggered by everything else.

Take this following tweet for example from Friday which was written after yet another interview where Jayson Tatum decided to show his love for Kyrie Irving one more time. No one is expecting Tatum to stand up for the Celtics or their fans by saying Kyrie should't have stomped on the logo or used racism as a crutch for his own person vengeance (Jaylen Brown was the one player who wisely pointed this out), but reporters are going to keep asking Jayson the Kyrie question as long as he keeps answering. So even though Tatum has in numerous interviews professed his love for Kyrie, he feels the need to continue to answer this question. And this means he will continue to be asked it.

They need to come up with a formula/name like net carbs that takes into account positive comments and "likes" minus negative comments. When I read something I don't like that wasn't personally addressed to me I just go on with the rest of my day. But even though the "fans" who left negative replies on the above tweet are a small vocal minority of Celtics nation, they stand out because they have nothing better to do on a Friday night besides leaving snarky negative comments on strangers' tweets.

No one, busted a Tanguay and told Tatum to take a hike. No one "@" Tatum. If Jayson was bored this weekend and went to Twitter to see what people were saying about him he'd have inundated with ten of thousands of tweets telling him how great he is. Tatum isn't going to leave in 4 years because someone tweeted four years prior that they aren't a fan of hearing him talk glowingly about a star who screwed Boston over.

We didn't hear Ray Allen love when he left Boston, and he frickin' won a championship here. Same goes for Johnny Damon on the Red Sox when he left for our bitter rival the Yankees. "But Tatum and Kyrie are friends!" cry me a river. They can be friends while still being opponents, rivals, and Tatum not heading Kyrie's PR department.

Imagine Scottie Pippen constantly talking about how great Pistons guard Isiah Thomas was? Or Robert Parish praising his friends Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer? No, when Laimbeer disrespected the Celtics by continuing hammering the Celtics star Larry Bird on drives, Parish laid Laimbeer out.

"But they were teammates!" So what. Every NBA has former teammates from their AAU and college days on other teams around the league. Celtics fans are allowed to be perturbed by Tatum's continued public siding with Kyrie over the Celtics, Boston, and their fans. Sorry, but just because Kyrie might have brain f#cked some fans, not all of us our fools. And if Tatum is so soft that he'd leave Boston because some fans didn't like him praising a rival... then he can leave. But on the Celtics terms via trade.

The Celtics should NOT make a poor trade just to appease Tatum. The rumors of Jaylen Brown trades for Beal or Lillard are even worse than just straight up deals. They include Boston giving up other good players like Robert Williams and/or Marcus Smart as well as first round picks. The Clippers made a very poor trade to appease Kawhi Leonard and now they are very screwed.

At least the Clippers at the time knew that if they didn't let the Thunder's Sam Presti heist them for Paul George there would be no Kawhi signing. In the Celtics case, there is zero need to make a poor deal to appease Tatum. And guess what? By the time Tatum can walk in 4 years, Lillard will be 35 and Beal will be 32. On the other hand Jaylen Brown will be in his prime and very likely considerably better than either of those guys then.

Do you think a superstar would prefer to re-sign with a team that has another star in his prime, or to re-sign with a team where he will be the lone superstar and the team has huge money invested in a former star? Trading for an older sidekick for Tatum right now, so in 4 years he doesn't leave us, is pretty a$s backwards. If you're genuinely concerned about Tatum leaving, you should actually be focusing more on makings sure he has the proper costar and weapons around him in a few years when he would have some leverage, than now when he has none.

Quickly going through reasons 2-4 why some fans think Boston should trade Tatum. The "only made the Eastern Conference Finals" reason is ridiculous. Most stars don't even make the Conference Finals in their first four seasons. Beal never has in his nine seasons. Lillard didn't make it til his 7th season and of course lost as well.

Reason 3 aka Jaylen is the only asset the Celtics have good enough to add a star. Another backwards rationale. If he's the only asset you have to trade for a 2nd star, what in the world can you trade for a 3rd star? Or for the right pieces to build around let's say Tatum and Lillard? You can't trade for Lillard and then have the cap space to just sign Beal next offseason. It sounds like a great idea until you realize that Lillard makes $20 million more a year than Jaylen, so no cap gymnastics of letting everyone else go would allow you to fit Beal in under the cap as a free agent signing in 2022.

Now if Jaylen's is still your 2nd star come next summer, there is a route to offering Beal a max contract. But the Wizards are no dummies. They aren't going to just let Beal walk for nothing when they could trade him this offseason or at next season's deadline. And Boston's only chance to trade for Beal to be their 2rd star is if Boston and Beal hold leverage that if the Wizards don't trade him to Boston, he will just sign there in the summer with their cap space. If there is no potential cap space as leverage, another team could and would certainly offer more in a trade than the Celtics could.

The last reason the "Trade Jaylen" contingent give is they play the same position. They duplicate each other. Last time I looked you needed more than one big time scorer to be successful in the NBA. And also last I looked we're playing in an era where teams only play one big at a time. So not only do you have the traditional small forward and shooting guards to slot the Jays into, there is an extra wing position.

At least this 4th reason has a minimum amount of logic to it, since even though the Jays are great together, could a combo be even better if one of them had different strengths. In a vacuum, yes. But the ideal running mate for either Jayson or Jaylen would be a Kevin Garnett type. An absolute beast on the defensive end. A guy who doesn't care about getting his shots, he just desperately wants to win. A team leader and unselfish star. A big who can shoot from the outside. KG was one of a kind and there is no one like that in the league right now, let alone available.

There are no available star bigs to trade for. Would more of a young playmaking star be a better fit for Tatum? Yes, but guys like Ja Morant and Luke Doncic are the faces of their franchises and even if their respective GM's would listen to offers, Jaylen wouldn't get it done. Trust me, as much as I like Jaylen and am in Camp Don't Trade Brown, I'd trade everyone on the roster to pair Tatum and Doncic together. And pretty sure I'd trade Jaylen for Morant without thinking much about it.

Trading for a Doncic or Morant would be like trading for Lillard ten years ago, which would have been impossible since he was still in college when he was the age Luka and Ja are now. Even though Lillard numbers at age 24 weren't better than Jaylen's now, that still would be a trade that would make sense. Trading an all-star wing for an all-star playmaker makes sense if the player is the same age and at least as good.

But here's the thing. A year and a half ago, people were rather 50/50 split on who was better, Tatum or Brown. While Jaylen continued to improve since then, Tatum's improvement was even greater. So everyone assumes if you need to split them up, Jaylen has to be a goner. And traditionally (Well traditionally a team and it's fans would thank their lucky stars they have two dynamite all-stars who were just 23 and 24 years old) the lesser star would be the player shopped. But is everything equal here?

Which Jay stepped up to Marcus Smart during the Celtics series vs the Raptors in the Bubble playoffs? Jaylen Brown. Which Jay and who was the only player on the Celtics roster who called out Kyrie Irving? Jaylen Brown. Which Jay have we never heard rumors that he might leave in free agency? Jaylen Brown. Which Jay was never rumored to have not wanted Boston to draft him? Jaylen Brown.

While you could use Jaylen Brown as the trade piece to bring in a friend of Tatum's, as we've discussed that might backfire due to the new star's advanced age by the time Tatum can be a free agent. And also as we've discussed, you likely are including more than just Jaylen.

A wise GM explores ALL options. Build around the Jay's, trade Jaylen for a better young star to pair with Tatum, OR... trade Jayson for practically any player your heart desires and build around Jaylen and Jayson. Here's the collateral damage if you trade Jaylen now to placate Jayson: What happens when a better, and more importantly younger star than Lillard becomes available in 3 months, 6 months, or a year? Well if you're the Lillard and Tatum Celtics, nothing. You no longer have that Jay bullet to trade.

If Zion Williamson, Ja, Donovan Mitchell, Karl-Anthony Towns, or Doncic become available to trade for there is no way their teams will trade their young stars for a 32 year old small point guard in Lillard owed close to $50 million a year. So this obviously supports option 1 of keeping both Jay's, but it also supports Option 3 of keeping Jaylen and trading Tatum.

Again the Celtics aren't trading Tatum this summer. And even if they thought it could make sense, with all due respect to Brad Stevens and Wyc Grousbeck, I doubt they have the balls to make that deal this summer with all the blowback they could get. But what about if the Jazz take a step back next season (which is easy to see happening when you're coming off having the best record in the NBA) and Donovan Mithchell becomes available? While he's not a traditional point guard. Much more of Dwyane Wade type, he's more of a playmaker than Tatum or Jaylen.

And Mitchell also seems to be pretty close friends with one Jaylen Brown. While Tatum and Lillard wouldn't allow you to sign or trade for a 3rd star, the combined contracts of Mitchell and Jaylen would. And if you traded Tatum, you'd be getting back more than just Mitchell. This is the perk of trading the better star. You are the team getting extra pieces, not the team giving them up. Tatum wouldn't even need to end up in Utah. He could end up on a third team who gives the Jazz something that equals Donovan's value and gives Boston the something extra.

Now you'd still have two young stars, but you'd have that something extra to pair with your additional assets like Time Lord, Smart, and picks to snag a third star via trade. Or if you really wanted to think big, you could trade players like Time Lord and Smart for even more picks to first create cap space to sign a third star and then eventually use those picks and the extras you got in a Tatum to trade for a 4th star.

Point is if the Celtics aren't going to commit to sticking with the Jay's, don't limit yourself by just exploring trades for one of them. And call me crazy, but I actually enjoy rooting for stars in Boston that love playing for the Celtics, who bleed green, and who I don't need to worry about them busting a Kyrie. Like even Larry Bird who was a fish (bird?) out of water in Boston, famously said the only place he'd rather be than back home in French Lick, Indiana was Boston.

Tatum talks of MVP's and winning championships. Missing was the word "Boston." He doesn't say he wants to win championships in Boston, just championships. This is so odd for a Boston star, especially one drafted by the team. Pierce wanted to win in Boston. KG said his only regret was not coming to Boston sooner. Tatum really seems like he's much more cut from the Kyrie cloth of its about the name that's on the back of the jersey, not on the front. The Celtics (and winning teams in general) have always been the opposite. It's the name that's on the front of the jersey that matters. Not the one on the back.

So if you want to split up the Jay's be careful what you wish for. You can trade Jaylen for Beal and Tatum will be temporarily pleased. Then you either have to sign Beal to a max contract that will knock on $50 million per by his mid 30's or he could walk next summer. You can't trade for either Lillard or Beal and have cap space next summer. You'd have to renounce either player to have cap space and then they are gone. That's your two man team right there.

Or if you're open to moving either Jay, you actually have the opportunity to create a team with 3 stars who like Celtics stars of the past want to play and win championships here. Beal and Tatum want to play together. They've talked about it. But do they care if it's Boston or not? Don't confuse stars wanting to play together with stars wanting to stay or win with a particular franchise.

There are superstars like Shaq, LeBron, Durant, Kyrie, and Kawhi, who couldn't care less about sticking with the team that drafted them or any team for that matter. There are others like Lillard and KG who are so loyal to their franchises and cities, that by the time they start their 30's they are still with their original teams despite never even making the NBA Finals. It's only then when they know they only have a few prime years left, that they can be convinced to move on.

From what you've seen or heard, how confident are you that Tatum is more of loyal KG/Lillard type of star than a Kyrie, Durant, LeBron type? Those players talk about forming super teams with their friends at the drop of a hat. If it can be done in one of their current locations, cool, but if they all have to go elsewhere, no big deal.

Steph Curry while unlike KG and Lillard, was able to win titles in his 20's, is cut more from their cloth than Kyrie's, Kawhi's, Durant's, or LeBron's. Those four even after playing on super teams and winning titles still decided to walk. Curry would rather remain the face of one team.

Not saying building around Donovan Mitchell and Jaylen Brown is the blueprint. If you're open to trading Tatum, your options are as close to limitless as any player could be. Maybe you trade Tatum for a package starting with Morant? But before you commit to a future of Tatum and either one of Beal or Lillard and not much else, at least consider what two stars you could add to Jaylen Brown and the Celtics that would bring championships.