We may be nearing another Celtics-Nets blockbuster trade that will define each franchise for years to come, only this time, I’m not so sure the Celtics are going to be the ones making out like bandits.
I don’t know why I didn’t see this coming.
The Celtics were an obvious choice for a KD trade. I mentioned the Lakers, who could (if they wanted) offer Anthony Davis, and that’s a talent return for the Nets no other team could offer. If you’re talking about pure, singular value returned for the Nets in a KD trade, there’s no better offer out there than AD for KD. Straight up. Because it’s a realistic option; the Lakers could realistically do it. AD isn’t their best player, so in that regard he’s expendable for the right price. It wouldn’t just be swapping best players; the Lakers would actually have a compelling interest in doing a KD for AD trade. Few other teams in the league have that type of top-end talent where their second best player is of fairly close value (but by no means equal) to KD, and thus could offer the Nets a compelling trade from a talent-returned perspective.
But the Lakers don’t want to do the AD-KD trade. I think that’s a smart move–AD, for all his injury concerns, is younger than KD and way better defensively. He makes the Lakers a more complete team than KD would. That’s not to say the Lakers wouldn’t potentially be better with KD and LeBron paired up, but it is to say they would have more holes on the roster that would need to be addressed, namely interior scoring and defense. LeBron would basically have to be a point/center unless they could also pull off a trade for Myles Turner.
Anyway, all this is to say that if the Nets were looking for single-player value returned–in other words, getting a really, really good player back in return for KD instead of just a bunch of role players and pieces and fringe all-stars–then the Lakers with AD represented a compelling trade partner.
But there was always one other team sitting out there who could, without giving up their best player, realistically offer the Nets a very, very good player in return for KD.
No, it wasn’t the Golden State Warriors.
It was, and is, the Boston Celtics.
Because they have Jaylen Brown.
The Celtics could look at their situation and think, “If we swap out JB for KD, pair up Tatum and Kevin Durant, with Marcus Smart at point, Robert Williams at the center, Al Horford at the 4, we’d be incredibly tough to beat.”
Jaylen Brown is, if not a blue chip trade asset, then just one tier below blue chip. He’s a young player who can score 25+ a game for you efficiently. He’s shot an average of 37.8% from three the past three seasons while averaging 22.9 points a game alongside Jayson Tatum. He shoots 55.1% eFG over that span, which is really, really good.
He’s a guy the Nets could build around. Probably, Brown couldn’t be a #1 option on a Championship team, but if Ben Simmons actually gets it together for the Nets, then him plus Brown would be a nice core for the Nets to have going forward. They’d be an attractive destination for a potential superstar free agent signing down the road, I think. They’d be one piece away from being true title contenders.
So here’s what Woj has to say in his article about this potential trade:
The Celtics appear no closer to acquiring Durant than others in discussions with the Nets, but Boston’s ability to include All-Star forward Jaylen Brown as a centerpiece in offers does help make the team formidable in its pursuit, sources said.
There are no deals believed to have traction for Durant, and no team has yet to reach the significant threshold that the Nets have set to trade one of the league’s most talented players, sources said. The Nets’ posture on a potential trade has been largely unchanged: They want a massive return that potentially includes multiple unprotected first-round picks, pick swaps and impactful players for Durant, sources said.
The Celtics consider All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum off limits in any trade talks, but Boston is able to construct a package for Durant that could include Brown and as many as three unprotected first-round picks (2025, 2027 and 2029) — and two pick swaps (2024 and 2026). Brown, 25, has two years and $56 million left on his current contract.
The Celtics defeated the Nets 4-0 in an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series last season and built the core of their current team, in part, from the draft compensation from a 2013 trade that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets. Both Tatum and Brown were acquired through Brooklyn picks delivered to Boston.
An interesting little factoid at the end there–the Celtics only got Jaylen Brown (and Tatum) because of that KG/Paul Pierce trade with the Nets in the first place.
I think this might be as good as it’s gonna get for the Nets in terms of a possible return for KD.
The Suns are basically out of the running now that they’ve signed Ayton to a long-term deal. The Miami Heat may still be in the running, but I don’t know if they’d be able to put together a better trade package than the Celtics have. Ditto the Raptors.
From Jaylen Brown’s perspective, he’s probably less than enamored with the Celtics right now after all this has gotten out. Now that he knows the Celtics have entertained the idea of trading him, he probably has lost all sense of loyalty to the organization. The cat’s out of the bag.
Jaylen Brown outplayed Jayson Tatum in the Finals, and now the Celtics are going to try and move him because they think he’s the one they need to upgrade from? I’d be pissed if I were Jaylen Brown.
I think this might actually get done. KD would be happy because he’d be on arguably the most stacked team in the league (although not overwhelmingly so) which is what he wants.
Brad Stevens kind of has to get this deal done now, because I doubt Brown is going to want to re-sign with Boston in two years now that he knows he’s being shopped around.
The reason I never really considered the Celtics as a KD trade destination is because the Celtics have this great young core that nearly got them a Championship, and has already been two additional Conference Finals prior to 2022. The Celtics theoretically have a Championship window open for years to come here. Why would they want to blow that up?
Because KD simply gives them a better chance at winning a Championship right now. That’s the name of the game. You do everything you can to put yourself in the best position to win a Championship now. Not a 5-year window–now.
Replacing Jaylen Brown with KD gives the Celtics a better chance to win a Championship right now. Sure, KD is about to be 34 and won’t be around as long as Jaylen Brown, but the Celtics’ title odds would improve with KD in place of JB.
As of July 22nd, the Celtics were +500 to win the 2023 NBA Championship, the best odds in the league. I haven’t seen any updated title odds with the potential for KD to be on the Celtics factored in, but the Celtics’ odds should get even better now that the rumors are floating around out there. That tells you all you need to know about why the Celtics should be compelled to get this deal done.
Now, there is one more point to add in here, which is what Shams added this morning (Woj broke the news in the middle of the night last night and Shams added some in the morning):
So the Nets also want Marcus Smart in the deal as well. I think Derrick White qualifies as a rotational piece, so the difference between what the Celtics offered and what the Nets want appears to just be Marcus Smart, at least if I’m reading this tweet correctly.
In other words, if the Celtics add Marcus Smart to the trade package, KD is heading to Boston.
That’s what I’m getting out of this. I could be interpreting this wrong, though.
This certainly makes it a tougher decision for the Celtics, because they lose their best perimeter defender, plus obviously Jaylen Brown. It certainly is a trade that would shake up the Celtics’ identity, losing Marcus Smart along with JB.
But a team with Tatum, KD, Horford and Robert Williams–that’s just incredible length and size.
I don’t know who they’d plug in to play point guard. It would have to be a veteran minimum guy. Maybe the Celtics bring back Dennis Schroder? Or even Rajon Rondo, who I believe is unsigned still? That would be interesting–Rondo going back to the Celtics. You also have guys like DJ Augustin and Eric Bledsoe.
Things might be about to get interesting.
What about the Kyrie/Lakers front?
I said a few weeks ago I thought it would happen soon because the Lakers had slightly more leverage than the Nets.
It’s clear now that was wrong.
The Nets are perfectly content waiting out the Lakers.
I think it’s just that every team in the NBA knows the Lakers are extremely desperate, no matter how much Darvin Ham tries to convince them the Lakers are excited to have Russell Westbrook.
Nobody is going to let the Lakers move off of Westbrook without paying a heavy price. That’s just the reality of the situation.
The Pacers gave up Malcolm Brogdon to the Celtics for a first round pick plus Daniel Theis, Aaron Nesmith, Nik Stauskas, Malik Fitts, and Juwan Morgan. That’s like nothing. A Boston Celtics first round pick is basically a second-round pick.
But the Pacers want to hold the Lakers’ feet to the fire and demand two first round picks in a Hield/Myles Turner trade for Westbrook?
What the hell?
Maybe it’s because the Lakers’ first round picks are so far out (2027 and 2029). That may be the case, but there’s a strong chance those will be very good picks because LeBron will be long gone by then and the Lakers, if recent history shows us anything, will become one of the worst teams in the league once LeBron leaves. Those Lakers 2027 and 2029 first round picks should be highly coveted in my eyes because the Lakers, under the leadership of Jeanie Buss and without LeBron James, are an absolute poverty-franchise. Bottom-5 in the league. Kings-tier. Those first round picks in 2027 and 2029 are going to be lottery picks, I can almost assure you of that.
So if those are going to be good picks, then why are the Pacers being so stingy toward the Lakers, while being so generous to the Celtics and giving them Malcolm Brogdon basically for a first round picks and a backup center?
Is it because Larry Bird is still pulling the strings in Indiana and giving his old team sweetheart deals?
Maybe, but I really just think it’s because the Pacers know the Lakers are desperate, and they know the Lakers will eventually cave and pay the price.
Rob Pelinka is trying like hell to not give up his two first round picks, but now the word is out in the league that the Lakers are desperate not to give up their two first round picks. So the asking price in any Westbrook trade just went up: nobody will take Westbrook unless two first round picks are coming over along with him.
A KD trade might clear up the logjam in the NBA trade market, however.
If and when this KD to the Celtics trade goes down, I think we might see a flurry of activity following it. The whole market is on pause right now waiting to see what happens with KD.
Once that domino falls, I think Kyrie gets moved and the Lakers are the obvious choice.
But I’ll write more on this later after I’ve had some time to think about it.
One last thing: Sam Quinn brings up the crazy trade triangle between the Nets, Celtics and 76ers over the past decade or so.