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The Discourse Around Jaylen Brown And The Future Of The Celtics Is Getting A Little Ridiculous

Jesse D. Garrabrant. Getty Images.

Given the way the Celtics season ended, emotions are going to be running high. When you get so close and ultimately fail, that comes with the territory. People are reactionary, they're hurt, they're frustrated, it's all normal. Lord knows I feel all those things. How could you not?

The thing is, some of the shit I'm seeing being thrown out there by fellow Celts fans is getting a little out of hand. How Jaylen is being talked about as a player is getting a little out of hand. I get it, he was absolutely horrific in Game 7 and his ECF series was by far the worst of his entire career. The Celtics are arguably in the Finals if the same Jaylen we saw in the first two rounds showed up in the third. Nobody could possibly debate that.

This also does not mean Jaylen is a perfect player without flaws. Of course he has flaws. Every player in the NBA has flaws. 

I also understand there's going to be a new reality in the NBA under the new CBA. That too is unavoidable and will change how teams are built moving forward. That's not changing.

All I ask if that everyone just take a deep breath and try and think through the entire picture. What made the Celts good in the first place, what their current situation is, and what they can do in the future. 

For me, this all dates back to the summer of 2019. The Celtics had a choice. They could split up Tatum and Brown and trade for one year of Anthony Davis before he headed to LA, or they could make the organizational decision to commit to Tatum and Brown and build that way. That choice made it clear that the organization was going to ride through the ups and downs of their development, because in today's NBA wing play rules all unless you're employing Nikola Jokic. That's just a fact.

They had tried the elite scoring point guard next to Tatum and Brown in Kyrie Irving, which did not work. They replaced that with an undersized Kemba who for a time worked, but we learned that once you get to the playoffs, a player like that is hunted. As an aging smaller guard with health issues, once Brad took over he understood that to get the most out of Tatum and Brown he had to adjust the roster.

What helped the Celts separate from other teams in the league isn't just the development of what Tatum and Brown have turned into and what they can continue to add, it's the idea behind versatility. Both offensively and defensively. From his time coaching, it was clear that Brad understood what type of roster was needed to consistently contend in today's NBA. Why else do you think nobody on this roster outside of Pritchard (an Ainge pick) is under 6'4? What makes the Celtics unique is their ability to adapt and have true lineup flexibility. Having bigger guards, bigger wings, and legit rim protection is how they've established themselves as one of the true contending teams in each of the last 4 years since that 2019 decision. 

The defensive identity everyone wants the Celts to get back to that we saw in 2021-22? This roster is currently built for it. We saw it at times this season and even in the ECF. The point is, the Celtics roster as it currently stands is good enough to win an NBA title. It does not need a drastic shakeup like trading Jaylen Brown in order to win. 

When it comes to big roster decisions like that, I personally go back to one main point. At their ceiling, when the team plays to their potential, are they good enough to win a title? I don't know how anyone could watch this team over the last 2 years and say the answer to that question is no.

The reason this team did not win those titles is pretty simple. In 2022, if Tatum was his normal self production wise, they win. In 2023, if Jaylen is his normal self production wise, they win. So you might now be saying 

"well Greenie, they clearly weren't on the biggest stage, so that's why we have to trade one of them and it can't be Tatum!"

I urge you to think back to the decision of 2019.

If Tatum and Brown were awesome in the Finals and ECF and the Celts lost because of their role guys, I can understand changing things around. If they were awesome and ultimately the head coach blew it, I can understand looking around. But when the biggest issues are coming from the two franchise players under 27 who as an organization you committed to developing, you have to ride it out. Ever since Brad took over he's been very clear about one thing. Investing in the Jays and building the right type of team around them.

That has happened.

It's shit luck that Brogdon tore his tendon and Tatum sprained his ankle 20 seconds into Game 7. I don't think it makes sense to overreact to the entire roster being unable to hit a jumper for 2 straight games. The Celts didn't win 57 games, have a top 3 offense, defense, net rating, and make it to Game 7 of the ECF by accident. While the goal is ALWAYS to win a title, this is not a team that has lost in the 2nd round every year and isn't close to the top of the mountain or has aging stars with a shorter window. To win a title you need to play at your best and have things break your way, that's just how it goes.

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So when I look around and see what fans want to trade Jaylen Brown for, I'm not really sure what they think it improves. You hear, OK, trade for Damian Lillard. Just think that out though. For starters, Dame makes supermax money, so you're looking at Jaylen PLUS an asset and for the sake of the argument, let's say it's Smart. So, you're giving up one player before he hits his NBA prime, your starting versatile point guard who has proven to elevate his game in the playoffs, for an aging undersized point guard who makes a shit ton of money. All those fears about team building under the new CBA if you pay Jaylen a supermax also exist with a Dame supermax. The only difference there is you're now talking about a 35 and 36 year old player once you get to those years. So not only are you handcuffed the same way in terms of roster building, but now you are tied to a MUCH older player at $60M+. Knowing what makes the Celts successful in terms of offensive and defensive versatility, I don't understand how losing Jaylen/Smart for the right to pay an aging point guard makes you closer to a title. 

Not only that, but given the fact that POR can't extend Jaylen, I'm not sure why anyone thinks they would even say yes in the first place.

The other one you hear is Simons/#3/other players for Jaylen. This is also just as confusing to me. I'm not sure how trading for a younger player (who still makes $50M over the next 2 years) and an unproven rookie brings you closer to a title than where you are now. Playoff experience matters. Not only that, but the Celts then have to pay Simons his extension around the same time Jaylen's supermax kicks in, so the hope is what, that Simons turns into Jaylen Brown? That the #3 pick maybe develops into a championship caliber piece within the next 2 years?

I've also seen people clamoring for players like Trae Young. Others want Dejounte Murray/John Collins/Saddiq Bey. I would simply ask you to just think through that as well. An undersized offensive minded point guard? Didn't we just live through that? On one hand, these people want the Celts to get back to their elite defensive mentality, while on the other hand want them to bring in Trae Young. That's a little confusing.

In terms of the other package, you have to remember the contract situations. Dejounte Murray is an expiring deal this upcoming season. John Collins has this year and next year before he turns down his player option looking for an extension. Saddiq Bey is in the last year of his deal before RFA.

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When the Celts were playing the Hawks, did any Celtics fan watch Jaylen torch that team and think, man, we should really swap that guy for Murray/Collins/Bey if we want to win the NBA title? Of course not! 

So now, instead of paying Jaylen, you would rather trade him just so you can instead be the ones to pay Dejounte Murray and John Collins? There's a likely chance that the Celts run into the same situation with Bey that they are in with Grant, and can't match a big offer sheet. Now you're stuck with a Murray/White/Smart/Brogdon guard room which makes no sense. If you want to then try and flip one of those players, what are you getting back that makes you better than just keeping Jaylen and pairing him with the guard trio that we know works? 

This is where I usually hear the whole doing the same thing and expecting different results is insanity line. I would just ask those people to look at who is currently playing in the NBA Finals. Continuity matters. The Denver Nuggets had plenty of opportunities to move their young talented pieces after years of not making the Finals or winning a title. They could have moved Murray, they could have moved MPJ. They could have fired their coach after numerous early playoff exits. But they stayed true to what they were building. They let their MVP candidate develop and surrounded him with pieces that fit how they wanted to play. That MVP started to enter his prime NBA years and look what has happened. They tried the "same thing" over and over, tweaking things around the edges to continue to elevate their season. 

The Celtics are no different. 

That's why when I look at their path moving forward, their decision is pretty easy. You extend the supermax to Jaylen because that is proper asset management in my opinion. That buys you next season and the year after until Tatum's supermax kicks in and real decisions have to be made. You get to see Jaylen in his 27 and 28 age seasons, which NBA history suggests are when guys enter their basketball primes. Your current roster in terms of your main pieces are all locked into that next 2 year window

Let's say you get to that point and the Celts still haven't won a title, now you're exploring a potential trade of someone like Jaylen when he's in his prime and has multiple guaranteed years left. That is a much easier asset to trade at 28 than someone like Dame at 36 at $60M+. 

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My overall point is there may be a time when Brad does have to pull the trigger on something like that. But that is not 2023 and it is not 2024. 

The only way it would be is if Jaylen turns down any sort of extension this summer, but I find that unlikely if the Celts put that supermax on the table.

For the Celts to get over the hump, they need their two best players to thrive in the biggest moments. Nobody can deny that. But since this organization made that choice in 2019 to keep the Jays and invest in them, they made the choice to live through the good and the bad. The ups and the downs. The 51 point Game 7s and the 8 TO Game 7s. Guess what? It doesn't matter who the Celtics trade for if that guy goes 8-23. After a disappointing loss, people tend to think change is always better, when the Celts have shown us that continuity and continuing to build to what you've established is how you truly contend. 

You don't go through all that just to bail right before the two key pieces you chose to build around enter their NBA primes. I get that roster construction once they get to that point can get tricky, but do you think Brad/Mike Zarren didn't have any foresight that Jaylen might be supermax eligible? When they decided to not trade him for KD this summer, you don't think they were prepared for what the team building might look like moving forward if he made All NBA? If they weren't interested in potentially paying that money, don't you think he gets moved?  

So what should the Celts do? Well, part of that depends on what happens to Grant. If he's gone, they really need to find a way to address their frontcourt. Shit, that might even be true even if Grant somehow stays. The good news is you don't have to trade Jaylen Brown to do that. 

I get that fans are frustrated, I am too. Losing this close to the Finals fucking sucks. But I think it's important to keep perspective and understand how Brad is building this team and what the organizational direction is. 

The Celts formula is good enough. Their collection of talent is good enough. The reality is simply that talent didn't come through when it needed to. That's always on the table regardless of what your roster looks like, which is why I don't really get the idea that the roster is what needs to change. No, the execution just needs to be better. Joe can get better. His staff can get better. 

There are plenty of things the Celts can try before you start talking about removing franchise pillars, who pretty much everyone up until Game 7 felt were good enough to win the title. One bad game does not change that.

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