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. Click here for players #8-10.
*Contract years left include this year
7. Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
Age: 25 years old
Contract: 2 years, $36 million
With the recent rumors that the Indiana Pacers could look to hit the reset button this season, Myles Turner should be available. He, Domantas Sabonis, and Caris LeVert were all named in the report, stating that Indiana might make major moves this year. On top of that, Turner told Jared Weiss of The Athletic that he is ready for a change. Turner wants to play a bigger role, and he doesn’t feel as though Indiana is giving him the chance to do that.
Cost: Considering the fact that Turner has stated that he wants out of Indiana, his price could be lower than a lot of people realize. That being said, a ton of teams around the league will be eager to add a player of his caliber.
Unfortunately, Turner doesn’t fit into any of the Celtics’ TPE, so they would have to match salary in order to land him. This would likely require them to ship out Richardson and multiple young players. Past that, the Pacers could want a first-round pick or two.
Fit: In a perfect world, Turner is the exact archetype of player the Celtics should want to put around the Jays. For years Danny Ainge talked about adding shooting with size, and Turner is just that. He’s a seven-foot center who is one of the best shot-blockers in the league and still shoots nearly 37 percent from behind the arc.
Having that sort of spacing around Boston’s stars would be beneficial. The only issue with that is running Turner with either Williams or Horford could pose an issue. Putting him next to Williams would probably be the team’s best bet, but even then, they are losing the big body of Horford in the starting lineup.
Long-term impact: At only 25 years old, Turner would theoretically be able to grow with the rest of Boston’s current core. However, the fact that his contract is up at the end of next season could lead to some problems.
There will be plenty of teams around the league throwing money at him, so the C’s might have to end up overpaying to keep him around. That being said, Horford’s contract would be up at that point, so they could simply prioritize Turner instead.
Conclusion: The one issue with Turner is, similar to Christian Wood: he’s not necessarily a star. He’s great, and he plays his role well, but instead of being a third star alongside Tatum and Brown, Turner is more at the level of Marcus Smart, Williams, and Horford.
His contract isn’t terrible, though, and he certainly would fit in nicely alongside the Jays. When thinking of third stars, he’s not the best option, but considering the fact that he’s probably available, it’d also be a bit easier to trade for him. That being said, with the current rotation in the front court, Turner probably isn’t the best player to spend all of Boston’s assets on.
6. Jerami Grant, Detroit Pistons
Age: 27 years old
Contract: 2 years, $41 million
The Celtics reportedly attempted to trade for Jerami Grant last season, but the Detroit Pistons were intent on keeping him. They supposedly offered multiple first-round picks to no avail. Nowadays, the Pistons are still in a state of disarray, and rumors are that they could be more open to dealing Grant. If that is the case, he’s a solid candidate to be the third star in Boston alongside Tatum and Brown.
Cost: Last year, two first-round picks weren’t enough to convince the Pistons to trade Grant. But with the current state of their roster, young players and picks should be exactly what they’re looking for. That being said, Boston would have to match Grant’s salary in any deal. This means Richardson would probably have to be involved, as well as multiple young pieces and/or Hernangomez.
Add on a couple of first-round picks on top of that, and it’d probably be enough to sway the Pistons. However, trading away Richardson and a ton of depth for Grant would be a lot. There’s technically a way to get Grant without giving up Richardson, but the C’s would have to give up five players in exchange for one.
Fit: In terms of fit, Grant would slot in seamlessly. He’s had the ball in his hands a lot in Detroit, but he also has plenty of experience playing off the ball. In his last year in Denver, he averaged nearly 14 points a game while shooting close to 40 percent from deep.
Grant has only improved his skill set since then, and could theoretically play a similar role while getting more shots. Not to mention the fact that he’s a super versatile defender. Again, though, Grant would have to bump one of Williams or Horford out of the starting lineup.
Long-term impact: Grant is only on the books for this year and next year, making around $20 million each season. For someone with his skill set, that’s not a terrible price tag. The only issue comes when his contract is up. Will Grant ask for more money? Should the Celtics be willing to pay him more? Both are valid questions.
Regardless of that, at only 27 years old, Grant is just entering his prime. There are few long-term questions to be had on that side of things, but plenty from a financial standpoint.
Conclusion: With Grant’s ability to be effective off the ball, adding him would be a solid move for the C’s. However, the same question asked about Turner needs to be asked about Grant - does he truly qualify as a third star? He’s only been in the All-Star conversation for about two years now, and he never truly had a chance in either year because the Pistons have been so bad.
So, if put in a situation where he’s the third option, would he still play at the level he is now? Or would he revert back to the player he was in Denver? Grant is a solid option, and while fit and overall versatility get him to the middle of the pack on this list, the fact that he isn’t truly a star means he can’t climb much higher.
5. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Age: 28 years old
Contract: 2 years, $72 million (player option for next year)
This trade idea has been brought up by Celtics fans for a long time. Bradley Beal and Tatum are close childhood friends, and the idea of Beal coming to Boston has been thrown around in rumors at almost every corner. The Washington Wizards got off to a hot start this season, causing the rumors to die down a bit, but Washington has come back down to earth lately. Beal even stated that he’s not signing an extension yet and wants to wait and see what happens.
Cost: Beal is one of the best shooting guards in the league, and although he’s been having a down year, he’s one of the best pure scorers in recent memory. He’s even led the league in scoring multiple times. Trading for him would cost Brad Stevens a pretty penny, not to mention the fact that they would have to match his salary.
This would almost certainly involve trading Richardson and Horford, along with a plethora of young players. Not to mention the lot of picks they’d attach to that package. It would create an elite Big Three, but Boston’s depth would surely suffer.
Fit: While Beal is definitely a cut above CJ McCollum, the same issue arises when looking at his fit with the team. When it comes down to it, Beal is an extremely similar prototype to both Tatum and Brown. All three are great isolation players who like to have the basketball in their hands.
Brown has adapted to playing off the ball a bit next to Tatum, but asking either Tatum or Beal to both play primarily off the ball might be a stretch. Ideally, the C’s should look to put pieces around the Jays that do other things - shoot, defend, pass - but Beal does a lot of the same.
Long-term fit: This is where things get dangerous. If the C’s decided to trade for Beal this season, then they’d only be getting him for half of a season. He has a player option for next year which he could choose to pick up, but in all likelihood, he’ll decline that to test the market.
However, of all places he could choose to play, Boston might be towards the top of the list considering his relationship with Tatum. If the Celtics think they could retain him long-term, then trading for him ahead of time might be the play.
Conclusion: One thing’s for sure - seeing Beal in a Celtics uniform alongside Tatum would definitely be fun. However, the on-court fit wouldn’t be as seamless as many think. Beal would add a third guy to the team that is most effective with the ball in his hands.
That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Plus, the Celtics would then have three players on max contracts, making it that much more difficult to put the rest of the roster together.
4. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers
Age: 25 years old
Contract: 3 years, $60 million
As previously mentioned, the Pacers could be looking to blow up their roster this season. In that report, it said they would likely look to move either Turner or Domantas Sabonis. The latter of those is a two-time All-Star who, like Turner, recently expressed his desire to leave Indiana, according to rumors. When thinking about a third star, someone who is a consistent threat to make the All-Star Game certainly falls under that category.
Cost: Considering the fact that he’s made multiple All-Star games at only 25 years old, Sabonis will end up costing a lot. Unfortunately, he also makes just a little bit too much to fit into Boston’s TPE’s. This means that they would have to match salaries, but Sabonis doesn’t make as much as you might think.
He only earns around $18.5 million this season, so the C’s could theoretically trade away Richardson and a couple of younger players for him from a purely financial perspective. However, the Pacers would probably ask for Robert Williams. Looking at Williams’ salary and the fact that Sabonis will probably ask for a huge payday in a couple of years, that’s not really worth it.
Fit: While Sabonis may not be the same type of player as Beal and/or McCollum, he still needs the ball in his hands to be at his best. Indiana has run through him for the past two seasons, allowing him to thrive. In Boston, he would be put in a position where his usage rate would almost certainly plummet.
That being said, putting him at the elbow to make plays for the Jays would be a beautiful thing. Just like Wood, Turner, and the other bigs on this list, though, adding Sabonis would mean one of Williams or Horford would have to come off the bench. In this scenario, it might be best to put Horford on the floor with Sabonis to maximize the amount of spacing on the court.
Long-term impact: For the next three years, Sabonis, Tatum, and Brown would be one of the top trios in the NBA. Sabonis’ contract is one of the best in the league, as by the end of it he’ll only be making around $23.3 million. However, once that contract is up, Sabonis is probably going to be asking for a max contract.
Whether or not he’s worth that is beside the point. If the fit hasn’t panned out the way Boston would have liked at that point, Sabonis could simply choose to leave and sign with another team. But that’s three years down the line, so it shouldn’t be too much of a concern when making a move for Sabonis this year.
Conclusion: Sabonis is actually a very intriguing option. As a third star, he brings elite rebounding and great playmaking - two things the Celtics will always want alongside the Jays. However, there’s a good chance the Celtics could simply get outbid for him.
Trading away Williams would be the best way to get a deal done, but then they’d be giving up a ton of athleticism and defense in their front court. Plus, Williams is (in all likelihood) never going to be the type of guy to want a max contract. Sabonis probably will. That’s something that needs to be considered. If the Celtics can land Sabonis without giving up Williams, then pull the trigger. If not, don’t.