From outside the Celtics organization, it’s easy to see why Brad Stevens called his counterpart Sean Marks with the Nets and talked about some form of a Kevin Durant trade. It’s Kevin “Freakin” Durant — MVP, two-time Finals MVP, one of the greatest scorers ever to lace them up. Put him next to Jayson Tatum with solid role players around them and the Celtics become the clear title favorites. From the outside, if you’re the Celtics, of course you explore the trade, and of course you consider Jaylen Brown as the centerpiece of any deal. We’re talking about KD, who even at age 34 is a top three player in the world (when healthy). And that may be underselling him.
Inside the Celtics organization, it is not as easy a call. There are potential consequences.
— Jaylen Brown (@FCHWPO) July 25, 2022
Brown has been loyal to the Celtics but heard his name come up in trade talks before — always for elite players such as Kawhi Leonard or Anthony Davis, but his name still comes up. However, that doesn’t mean Brown wants out of Boston. Just the opposite, reports Jared Weiss at The Athletic.
For all the hiccups in Brown’s relationship with the fanbase, he’s still committed to Boston. When WEEI’s Jermaine Wiggins claimed that Brown told him he wouldn’t re-sign in Boston when his contract expires in 2024, Brown was perplexed and denied the report behind closed doors, sources familiar with Brown’s thinking told The Athletic. In spite of the trade talks, Brown wants to be in Boston.
Last June’s trip to the Finals felt like Brown and Tatum — and the rest of a young Celtics’ core — figuring it out and starting to reach their peak. It’s been a roller coaster up to this point but for Celtics fans along for the ride, it finally feels like the years of emotional investment was paying off.
Then came this snap back to reality — the NBA is always a business first.
Which leaves Stevens, Ime Udoka and the Celtics management the job of making sure this rumor doesn’t fracture their relationship with Brown, who can be a free agent in two years. Most likely this trade doesn’t happen, as Weiss points out at The Athletic.
In the aftermath of [Shams] Charania’s report, several league sources who spoke with The Athletic believe the Nets are looking to drive the market and avoid the kerfuffle of Durant no-showing for training camp.
Should the Celtics go all-in on a Durant trade?
Brown being a free agent in 2024 is a key decision point for that question. To get the logistical stuff out of the way, Brown is not going to sign a contract extension with the Celtics before that because he is on a non-max deal now and CBA rules limit how big an extension the Celtics can give him off his current deal. Put more simply: Brown would make in excess of $7 million more in his first season alone by becoming a free agent and re-signing in Boston than he could through an extension, and those extra earnings compound with future raises throughout the contract. (The exception is if Brown makes an All-NBA team, then the extension rules change and Boston could do a max deal.)
Despite some reports saying the opposite, league sources NBC Sports spoke with expect Brown to re-sign in Boston in 2024, but they added everyone was going to monitor the situation because two years is a long time and things can change. Especially if a player’s name keeps popping up in trade talks and he doesn’t feel wanted.
With Brown and Tatum, the Celtics’ championship window could stretch out at least five years and maybe years longer. With Durant at age 34, even if he ages well (and there have been a lot of injury issues the last three years), the Celtics championship window is more like two, maybe three years. However, that window is more wide open. Win-now coaches and executives lean toward the win-now model (one never knows what the future will hold).
There are a lot of questions here for Stevens and Boston: How far would they go to make a trade work? Would they put Marcus Smart in the mix? How many draft picks would they throw in? Do they believe last season’s run to the Finals is repeatable or that they caught a lot of breaks?
But one of those key questions is how they keep their relationship with Brown strong.