As sports fans, we love to live in a world of hypotheticals. “What if player X played in era Y?” “What would have happened if that key player never got hurt?” And of course, “if you were starting a team from scratch in this era, what would you look for?”
Let’s play that last game for a bit here, shall we? If I’m starting a team, it has to start with a number one option. A guy that can get his shot off from any distance and still have high efficiency. It can’t just be a scorer though, he has to play on both ends of the court. An effective defender with length, athleticism, intelligence, and work ethic. And not to get too greedy, but how about a guy that can rebound, pass the rock, and grift his way to the line for free throws?
Since we’re dreaming big, let’s also make him a versatile wing, since that’s a huge premium in today’s game. Since he’s going to be the leader of this team, let’s make him mature beyond his years, a student of the game, and ...well, just a really solid person that people like being around.
Ok, that’s a great start, now how do we compliment this amazing leading man? Well, that is a little more tricky. See, you need a 1B to your 1A and that takes a special kind of personality. A lot of guys reach the pros by being The Man and feel like they need to be the focal point of the team to be effective. So you need a guy that is comfortable in his own skin, confident in his abilities, and at peace with his role on the team. When the lead guy is having an off night, this guy is picking up the slack. When the other team is on a run, this guy can shut it down and swing momentum back in the other direction.
Let’s get more specific, shall we? How about another athletic wing to give us maximum flexibility and matchup advantages. He has to be another two way player that fits in offensive and defensive schemes that maximize both players. He has to be able to shoot and create off the bounce and excel in transition. He must be ready to step up in every situation, no matter the stakes.
And again, let’s get greedy and make him a leader of men in his own way. A renaissance man, a cerebral intellect, and a champion for social justice. Those other interests will help him find his identity off the court as well as on it.
If you hadn’t guessed by the title and photos, I’m talking about Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The cornerstones of this franchise and the future of the Boston Celtics. They are complimented very nicely by Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, and Daniel Theis. But if you close your eyes and think forward 4-5 years, you might only be able to picture Tatum, Brown, and Smart (because we need Smart to retire as a Celtic after a long, productive career).
Tatum and Brown have already led the team to two Eastern Conference Finals (and Brown has been in a 3rd). They have already been through a challenging season which forced them to grow up fast and appreciate the success that they’ve had. It isn’t hard to imagine them having a long career together, linked forever as one of the great duos in the game.
Their styles are different but they also compliment each other well. While Tatum dances and prods for openings, Jaylen attacks and elevates. While Tatum prefers step backs, Brown excels in catch-and-shoot 3’s. Brown might be the better on-ball defender while Tatum is a heady off-ball defender. They’ve described themselves as “fire and ice” and they each have ways of giving the game what it needs. They both have tremendous respect and appreciation for each other too.
Finding a franchise player is one of the hardest things to do in sports. Finding two of them through the draft a year apart is an embarrassment of riches. The Celtics have something special in these two and it is a joy to be able to witness their growth and development into something extraordinary together.
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