Should the Celtics Trade Jaylen Brown?
Sitting at 16-16 through 32 games, the Celtics are in the midst of their second consecutive disappointing season. Despite major shakeups in the off-season, acquiring Dennis Schroder, Al Horford, and Josh Richardson and even hiring a new head coach in Ime Udoka, the Celtics still find themselves as a .500 team. With Jaylen Brown's contract set to expire in 2024, it's time to seriously consider whether the Celtics should implode their roster by trading one of their all-stars.
The Argument For Trading Jaylen Brown
Although a young duo as talented as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown doesn't come along often, this duo seems to bring out the worst in each other. Both Tatum and Brown have very similar play styles, wanting to play isolation basketball and take over the offense by themselves. They are both electric scorers who can create their own shots, but the Celtics have been plagued by static offense with little ball movement as a result. This season, the Celtics rank just 21st in the NBA in offensive rating (108.1). Looking at elite offenses like the Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, and Phoenix Suns, the ball is constantly skipping around. With the Celtics, their offense usually consists of Tatum or Brown isolating at top of the key while everyone else stands still. The top-seeded 2016/17 Celtics team led by Isaiah Thomas became successful through playing team basketball, not having the most talent and playing hero ball.
Throughout NBA history, there has rarely been a pairing this similar that has won a championship. Duos like Jordan and Pippen, Kobe and Shaq, Curry and Durant, LeBron and AD, and Stockton and Malone were so successful because they complemented each other's game and made each other better. Tatum and Brown almost do the opposite. It would make sense for the Celtics to explore trading Brown for a player who better complements Tatum, such as Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, or De’Aaron Fox.
The Argument Against Trading Jaylen Brown
Although the Celtics have been disappointing, the fact is that this duo has been successful before. In 2018, 20-year-old Tatum and 21-year-old Brown led the Celtics to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals after Kyrie Irving got hurt and missed the playoffs. More recently, in the 2020 playoffs, the duo of Tatum and Brown led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals yet again while Kemba Walker struggled. The duo of Tatum and Brown has proven that they are more than capable of leading a team deep in the playoffs.
Athletic wings who are elite on both sides of the ball like Brown are a major premium in the NBA right now, so the Celtics must be careful before making any rash decisions. The Celtics may be better off committing more to their supporting cast around Brown and Tatum. Despite all their recent moves, there are still clear flaws to the roster.
The Celtics have never complemented Tatum and Brown with a true point guard who is looking to distribute rather than score. Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, and Dennis Schroder are all talented, but they aren't pass-first point guards. Looking at the second-seeded Chicago Bulls, the duo of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan is flourishing alongside point guard Lonzo Ball, a player they committed to with an $85 million contract in the off-season. The duo of Tatum and Brown could thrive in a similar fashion if they played alongside a true point guard like Ball.
In addition, the Celtics still lack perimeter shooting to open up the floor compared to other elite offenses. The Celtics rank 23rd in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage at 33.8%, and they need more shooting to space the floor for Tatum and Brown.
As one of the most successful franchises in NBA history, the Celtics and their fanbase aren’t used to or satisfied with being a .500 team. Because of their lack of improvement, a major shakeup may be in the works. Even so, there's no guarantee that trading Brown helps to solve their issues. Considering that the Celtics missed the most games due to COVID protocols last year and that Brown has missed 12 games due to injury so far this year, the Celtics have experienced a lot of misfortune recently and shouldn't over react just yet. The Celtics should explore trades involving anyone on the roster aside from Tatum and Brown before deciding to split up the duo. Jerami Grant, Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, Eric Gordon, Harrison Barnes could be interesting trade targets that would not require the Celtics to move Brown, but would pair a formidable third option alongside the duo.