The Boston Celtics have two budding stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum has made two All-Star appearances, and Brown made his first last year. Both are still under the age of 26 and on the cusp of their primes. Despite multiple Eastern Conference Finals appearances, Boston fans are itching for more.
A recent report from Matt Moore of Action Network should get them excited. While most are focused on the idea of trading Brown away for what they perceive to be a more complimentary piece next to Tatum, Moore’s sources revealed a different, more reasonable storyline:
“There’s been a lot of talk in recent days about the Celtics and whether it is “working,” leading to the idea that Jaylen Brown could be moved. Instead, two sources indicated that in recent talks the Celtics are focused on trying to add a third star to play with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.”
Trading away a 25-year-old All-Star seems silly, and based on recent reports, the Celtics agree with that line of thinking. Instead of dealing Brown for new assets, they are supposedly attempting to add a “third star” to the team. However, this leads to the all-important question - who could that third star be?
There’s been no shortage of rumors so far this season. There are theoretically tons of stars around the league who could become available at a moment’s notice. Not all of these trade options are realistic, though.
The three main things considered when ranking these players are cost, fit, and long-term impact. With that in mind, if the Celtics were to try and trade for a third star, here are some of the potential options around the league that have been brought up in rumors:
- Bradley Beal
- De’Aaron Fox
- Jerami Grant
- Damian Lillard
- CJ McCollum
- Domantas Sabonis
- Pascal Siakam
- Ben Simmons
- Myles Turner
- Christian Wood
There are other stars around the league, but these ten have been thrown around in the rumor mill the most. In addition, some have even been (loosely) connected to the C’s in one way or another, so let’s rank them. This list is purely in order of personal preference and not based on actual or perceived availability or likelihood. Every person will have a list of their own that could look completely different.
*Contract years left include this year
10. CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
Age: 30 years old
Contract: 3 years, $100 million
The Portland Trail Blazers are in a peculiar place as an organization. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his podcast that an executive told him that every player on the Trail Blazers roster is available except for Damian Lillard. This leaves the door open for a potential CJ McCollum trade. However, the logistics of it all just don’t make sense.
Cost: McCollum has never been an All-Star, but he’s always been on the fringe. With Portland attempting to put a championship-caliber team around Lillard, they’d be looking for some win-now pieces from the C’s. That’s where the issue comes in. Unless Lillard decides he wants out (more on that later), then the plan will be to reshape the team around him.
This means that the Celtics would likely have to give up players like Marcus Smart, Josh Richardson, and/or Al Horford in a trade for McCollum. At that point, it may not be worth it for them to make the move.
Fit: With Tatum and Brown as the two pillars of the team, putting supporting pieces around them should be the goal. In turn, a third star needs to be able to compliment them well. Instead, adding McCollum would essentially be adding a third of the same prototype to the roster.
In order for McCollum to be at his best, he needs to have the ball in his hands. Right now, the Blazers do a lot of your turn, my turn - just like the C’s do. But adding McCollum into the mix would force the Celtics to play your turn, my turn, his turn. Rather than adding a third ball-dominant, isolation scorer to the rotation, Boston’s third star should bring something new to the table.
Long-term impact: One of the upsides of trading for McCollum is that he’s on the books for two more years after this season. However, he’s already 30 years old. Meaning, by the end of the contract he’ll be 32 years old and making nearly $36 million. For a superstar, that’s not a bad deal, but for McCollum, that’s a giant chunk of change.
He’d be under contract for a good amount of time, but it would also financially restrict the C’s from making any other big moves. This means they’d have to settle for lower-tier rotation players in order to fill out their roster. Doing that would mean they’d be banking on a trio of Tatum, Brown, and McCollum to carry them to a championship.
Conclusion: There are way too many negatives to a trade like this. Not only would the Celtics have to trade away core pieces to their team, but the player they’d get in return is on a massive contract. McCollum would be the highest-paid player in Boston, yet only the third-best. Plus, he doesn’t really fit the timeline of the Celtics.
The last time Boston added an aging guard on a max contract to their team it didn’t work out too well. Now, it’s not completely fair to compare McCollum to Kemba Walker, but the sentiment holds. His game is way too similar to Tatum and Brown’s, making the fit questionable at best. Boston should focus on adding a complimentary third star, not a clone of their current ones.
9. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
Age: 27 years old
Contract: 3 years, $101 million
As much as the Celtics have struggled this season, so have the Toronto Raptors. The one highlight of their season has been the play of rookie Scottie Barnes. However, some have questioned whether or not Barnes’ emergence as a star has made Pascal Siakam expendable. At 27 years old and with a ton of money left on his contract, trading Siakam would not only fast-track the Raptors pseudo rebuild, but it would also give Barnes the keys at power forward.
Cost: If Toronto wishes to enter a full-on rebuild, then picks and young players would be the key to nabbing Siakam. However, with him making over $31 million this season, they would have to find a way to match that salary. That’s where issues could begin to present themselves. Boston could potentially do a five-for-two trade with Richardson, Dennis Schroder, Juancho Hernangomez, and two young players being traded for Siakam and one of Toronto’s minimum guys (i.e. Yuta Watanabe).
That would absolutely gut the depth that the C’s currently employ. It would leave them with a bench of Grant Williams, either Robert Williams or Al Horford, and one of their young trio of Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith, or Romeo Langford (as the other two would be in the trade).
Fit: In theory, Siakam should be able to start next to Tatum and Brown at the four. However, with how the C’s have been running their offense this season, Siakam may not be the best option. Defensively, the team would be great, but there would definitely be some offensive question marks.
Siakam has thrived in the role of a third star before, and it led to a championship, but that was a very different team. In theory, Kawhi Leonard is the same prototype as both Tatum and Brown (elite two-way wing), but Toronto having Kyle Lowry was the key. As great as Marcus Smart has been this year, he’s not the point guard Lowry was on that Raptors team.
Long-term impact: Siakam is on the books for the rest of this season and then two more. He still has plenty of room to grow. That being said, just how much better is Siakam going to get? As of now, it seems as though we’ve seen the peak of his career. Although he’s been injured, Siakam only seems to have gotten worse since his sole All-Star season. The drop-off hasn’t been too significant, but it’s definitely been noticeable.
That’s without even considering the amount of money he makes. Throughout the rest of his deal, Siakam is owed over $30 million a season, and by the end, he’ll be making nearly $36 million. By adding another player making that much money, Boston would have almost zero wiggle room to make more moves.
Conclusion: Adding Siakam wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but the lineup would get a bit clunky. One of Williams or Horford would have to move to the bench, and the spacing around Tatum and Brown wouldn’t improve much. Plus, considering how much money Siakam makes, this move is very restrictive.
Boston is already financially restricted as it is, so adding a third player on a max contract would be a tall task. Including Horford, they would have four players taking up around $120 million of their payroll. Talk about not having much room to add depth. Add in the fact that Siakam doesn’t bring much new to the table, and this trade doesn’t make too much sense.
8. Christian Wood, Houston Rockets
Age: 26 years old
Contract: 2 years, $28 million
After a horrific start to the season, the Houston Rockets have seemingly turned things around in a big way and Christian Wood has been a large part of that improvement. Since the team began to turn things around on November 24th, Wood has been averaging 18.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists while shooting 48.6 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from deep. Wood has been connected to the C’s in the past, but reportedly, the Pistons were unwilling to trade him back in 2020.
Cost: At the beginning of the season, Wood probably would have cost a lot less. The Rockets started off the season 1-16 and rumors stated that head coach Stephen Silas could be on the hot seat. Wood even Tweeted out some cryptic message about wanting to win. Everything was pointing towards the 26-year-old big man being moved by the deadline.
However, since Houston has started winning again, that might not be the case anymore. Regardless, if Wood were to be put on the trade block, he’d likely be the cheapest of all the trade targets on this list. Not only is Houston a rebuilding team that values draft assets, but Wood fits into the Evan Fournier TPE. The most likely scenario would probably be a trade package including one or two of Boston’s young players and a couple of picks. Not a bad trade-off for someone like Wood.
Fit: Wood could actually fit pretty well with the C’s. He’s a power forward who has the ability to move over to the five, and he stretches the floor fairly well. He’s been able to play well with the ball constantly in his hands, but his style of play would translate well to playing off the ball. The only downside to dealing for Wood is that one of Robert Williams or Al Horford would have to be moved to the bench. This could create a potential log-jam at the big man position.
Long-term impact: At only 26 years old, Wood could grow with Tatum and Brown in Boston. Since he has only begun to reach stardom in the past two years, it’s hard to tell how good he could really be. While it’s fully possible that he’s reached his peak already, there’s also still plenty of room to grow.
That being said, the one issue with bringing in Wood is that his contract is up at the end of next season. He only makes around $14 million right now, but once this contract ends, he’ll probably want to get paid. Wood isn’t worth a max contract, but there could be some teams around the league willing to overpay for his services.
Conclusion: While Wood is great, some could argue that he’s not a star. He’s emerged as a quality player for the Rockets, but the “empty stats” argument is also very easily brought up. As mentioned, though, Wood’s style of play would translate well to playing off the ball, too.
There’s no reason he can’t learn to play next to Tatum and Brown effectively, but that’s a risk Boston would have to take. To be honest, a trade for Wood is among the most realistic of the players mentioned in this article. However, the fact that he’s probably not as good as most of the other potential options sends him towards the back of the list.
Check back on Monday and Tuesday for Parts II and III.