Two trains of thought on how Nuggets championship affects Celtics future

The NBA is a copycat league. If a team mixes things up and finds a new way to win, you'll see other teams soon follow suit. The Showtime Lakers of the 1980's got more teams using the fast break. The Bad Boy Pistons had an effect on Pat Riley's Knicks and Heat as toughness became paramount.

When the Suns almost made it to the NBA Finals under Mike D'Antoni and led by Steve Nash, the pace of the NBA sped up again and 3-point attempts took a larger leap. Then when Steph Curry's Warriors starting winning championships, every team's pace and 3-point attempts exploded which brings us to today where half a team's shots are 3's.

So with the Denver Nuggets winning their first ever NBA title, the reactions are already taking place. One of the most popular is that Denver a team that was built many years ago and they stuck with the group through all the seasons falling short and then used that experience to finally win a championship.

Nikola Jokic was drafted in 2014 and Jamal Murray in 2016. Michael Malone has been the Nuggets coach since 2015. So Malone has worked with the pair for seven of his eight seasons in Denver. And if you want to throw in Michael Porter Jr, Malone has coached the trio the past five seasons.

The Celtics' Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart have played together for six seasons now. Brown and Smart for seven. Unfortunately the group quit on Brad Stevens during the 2020-21 season, so they don't have the consistency of the same coach, but the train of thought from many Celtics fans is "Hey, give them another year or two and they will be hoisting that NBA Finals trophy themselves.

The other train of thought is more or less the opposite. The Nuggets showed the Celtics how to win a championship and Brad Stevens should use that knowledge to create a better team of complimentary players. Jokic and Murray are both much better playmakers and passers than Tatum and Brown. Expecting Tatum to all of a sudden have the court vision and passing of Jokic is an impossible ask, so you at least need your #2 guy to be as good as Murray.

In addition to being a much worse playmaker and passer than Murray, Jaylen is a piss poor ball handler (for someone that attempts to drive into traffic so frequently). So the Nuggets reminded everyone that passing is as important as shooting to winning. The Warriors great shooting had people look past how great their ball movement was. So in order to become a team with the passing and playmaking to win a title, the Celtics need to have an elite playmaker as their third guy or they need to move on from Jaylen Brown.

What makes things complicated is in order to retain Brown it looks like Stevens will have to pay him $60 million a year, but in order to win a title with Jaylen, Mazzulla will have to insist Jaylen does less. Brown should be your 2nd best scorer and solid defensive wing. At some point with the departures of playmakers Kyrie Irving, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, and Kemba Walker, Jaylen traded in some of defensive effort for a higher usage rate on offense, which included becoming a playmaker.

To make the Tatum/Jaylen combo work, you really need a point guard like Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, or Ricky Rubio. An elite floor general who demands the ball and gets guys like Jaylen his shots (instead of him creating them himself). Rondo is basically retired, while Ricky Rubio and Chris Paul aren't far behind. Paul would definitely garner the respect of Tatum and Brown to let him run the show, but counting on CP3 to make it thought the playoffs is a poor gamble.

Sure, I'd take him if we didn't need to trade anything valuable for him, but he would be a temporary fix anyway. So would Rubio, who also isn't exactly an ironman either.

Boston's offense actually looked best when Marcus Smart was allowed to be a traditional point guard and run the show this season. He had a nice long stretch of high assist games. But in the playoffs, he had the ball in his hands much less down the stretch. This is ironic, because most of used to hate when he would take bad shots down the stretch, but his game has changed and he's much less selfish. Jaylen has kind of taken over Smart's old role of us worrying that he's going to drive and lose the ball or slip (compared to Smart back in the day, gunning it as opposed to passing).In the Heat series I was actually calling Smart a calming influence out there, as opposed to our two stars and their turnovers.

Could making Smart more of the primary playmaker next playoffs be enough to get Boston across the finish line? Probably not. But maybe Tatum becomes so elite at scoring that you win with more of a 2021 Milwaukee Bucks team. Depends on if you think Tatum can become a playmaker on Giannis' level though.

One of the biggest issues facing the Celtics if they supermax Jaylen is that in the coming years you will have to sacrifice players like Smart, Robert Williams, Malcolm Brogdon, and Derrick White. And that's "players" plural. Plus you currently have the luxury of passing big man in Al Horford, but he's 37 years old now.

The Nuggets can build around Jokic and Murray, because for one Jamal isn't supermaxed, and two it's much easier to find complimentary pieces around an unselfish superstar like Jokic. You know who would go great with Jokic? Tatum. And Brown. And literally and NBA star guard or wing.

Many general managers do to give up on their guys too soon. And coaching tenures are comically short. But for every team that kept at it until they finally won a title, there are many that finally realized their core wasn't good enough and moved on.

Going the route of just thinking you will continue to improve together is dangerous. Washington has been doing that for decades it seems. The Heat won a title the 2nd season of their LeBron era. The Lakers the first season of the LeBron/AD duo. I'd argue having the best player in the world on your team is a bigger factor than continuity. Replace Jokic with Embiid or Devin Booker and are the Nuggets still champions?

Continuity is great if you have a great #1 and #2 who compliment each other. Jordan and Pippen won a title in their 4th season together and then their cohesion got even better as they played together longer. The Spurs with Duncan, Parker, and Manu continued to thrive due partly to continuity. Pippen, Parker, and Manu are all better playmakers, passers, and ball handlers than Jaylen though.

If you watched Jokic and Murray hugging last night after finally winning the big one in their seventh season together and imagined it being Tatum and Brown next season, I don't blame you. Now comes the decision for Stevens. Does he see Tatum and Brown as being as good or better than Jokic and Murray? And more importanly, do Tatum's and Brown's games compliment each other and the rest of the team as well?