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 and here for players #4-7.
*Contract years left include this season
3. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Age: 31 years old
Contract: 4 years, $176 million
The Portland Trail Blazers have been a mess this season both on and off the court. They fired their general manager, Neil Olshey, Chauncey Billups isn’t working out the way they wanted him to, and reports say that everyone aside from Damian Lillard could be on the trade block. So that begs the question, why is Lillard on this list at all? Well, if the Blazers continue to struggle, there’s always the chance that he decides he wants out.
Cost: Lillard is by far the biggest superstar on this list. Portland would undoubtedly want a massive haul in return for their franchise superstar. In all honestly, the Blazers would probably require Brown to be in any trade for Lillard. But for the purpose of this activity, they wouldn’t.
If Brown isn’t in the trade (by way of some sort of miracle), expect every single other major asset the Celtics have to be dealt. This includes everyone from Marcus Smart to both Williamses to Romeo Langford. Boston would be banking on a trio of Tatum, Brown, and Lillard, and the rest of the team would have to be figured out around them.
Fit: The 31-year-old point guard is one of the most clutch players in league history, an amazing shooter, and a solid playmaker. Needless to say, he’d fit in perfectly with whatever lineup the Celtics choose to run. Sure, he’d have the ball in his hands, but when dealing with someone as elite as Lillard, that’s totally fine.
In addition, Lillard can play off the ball if he needs to. He does so every so often in Portland whenever McCollum gets hot, and with Tatum and Brown by his side, his shooting touch would allow him to play that role well. Fit is never really a question when dealing with an MVP-caliber player.
Long-term impact: This is the one category where a trade for Lillard could be called into question. At 31 years old, Lillard is the oldest player on this list. He may be the best player, but he’s still the oldest nonetheless. Lillard’s also making the most money by far.
By the time his contract is up after the 2024-25 season, he’ll be making nearly $49 million dollars. Recent reports also stated that he’s looking to earn another max contract after this one. This would leave Boston with almost no money to fill out the rest of the roster. It’d be possible, but Stevens would have to get creative.
Conclusion: If the Celtics have the chance to trade for Lillard without giving up Brown, then it’s a no-brainer. That would create one of the best three-headed monsters in the league. However, the chances of that happening are so unrealistic, that Lillard can’t be any higher than third on this list. Portland would be absolutely foolish to accept a trade for Lillard that didn’t include Brown.
2. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Age: 25 years old
Contract: 4 years, $140 million
Ben Simmons has caused a lot of drama this season. After a failed playoff run, Simmons and the 76ers had a falling out. He has yet to appear in a game for the Philadelphia 76ers this year, and the team has continuously been fining him for it. Reports say that Daryl Morey’s asking price for Simmons is astronomical, but as soon as that price dips, the Celtics should be back on the phone again.
Cost: Boston supposedly reached out about a potential Simmons trade, but talks ended when Philadelphia asked for Brown. Giving up Brown for Simmons is not worth it in the slightest, and it’s not the point of this article, either. But if the 76ers are open to packages that don’t include Brown, then Simmons should be towards the top of Boston’s trade board.
At that point, however, they might not have the assets to beat out other teams’ offers. A package of Smart, Schroder, and young players definitely wouldn’t be enough, and the 76ers almost certainly don’t want Richardson and/or Horford back in Philadelphia.
Fit: In terms of fit, Simmons is one of the best players on this list. He may not be able to shoot, or even willing to shoot for that matter, but he does literally everything else. Simmons is arguably the best defender in the NBA, and one of only a few guys who can legitimately guard positions one through five. On top of that, he’d finally have adequate floor spacing around him.
With both Tatum and Brown around the perimeter, there’s no reason he couldn’t average 10+ assists per game. A backcourt of Smart and Simmons would be the best defensive pairing in the league, and a trio of Simmons, Tatum, and Brown would be elite on both sides of the floor.
Long-term impact: This wouldn’t be an issue for the Celtics, either. Simmons is under contract for three more years after this season, meaning Boston wouldn’t have to worry about re-signing him for a long time.
Plus, at only 25 years old, Simmons still has plenty of time to grow and improve, and he fits with the Jays’ timeline perfectly. However, Boston’s financial flexibility would definitely take a hit. Having three guys on max contracts would make filling out the rest of the roster more challenging.
Conclusion: This is a similar situation to Lillard. If the Celtics can keep Brown, then they should make this trade ten times out of ten. However, the likelihood that they’d be able to pull off a trade without dealing Brown is extremely low. A core of Simmons, Tatum, and Brown would be phenomenal, as Simmons is the pass-first point guard that a lot of people have yearned for. The fact that Simmons is only 25 years old puts him above Lillard on this list.
1. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings
Age: 24 years old
Contract: 5 years, $163 million
The Sacramento Kings have had an ugly start to the season. They fired head coach Luke Walton, but things still haven’t been going the way they wanted. De’Aaron Fox struggled mightily to start the year, and although he has since turned things around a bit, rumors have been swirling that the Kings could look to trade him. The recent play of Tyrese Haliburton has only fed that fire, as he’s been on a tear. If Fox does become available, he’s the perfect player to pair alongside Tatum and Brown.
Cost: From the Kings’ perspective, getting Brown back in a trade for Fox would be ideal. However, in reality, if Sacramento wants to hit the reset button and build around Tyrese Haliburton, Boston could offer a decent package.
Fox makes a ton of money, so Richardson would have to be included in the deal. Past that, they could throw in Juancho Hernangomez, a couple of young guys, and a ton of draft picks to try and pry Fox away from the Kings. However, if Sacramento wants to try and win now still, then that probably wouldn’t be enough.
Fit: Having Fox at the helm would cement Boston as one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference. Despite a down year this season, Fox showed true All-Star potential last year. He averaged over 25 points and seven assists a night. Putting that type of production would be ideal, and if Fox can improve his three-point shooting a bit, he could adapt to playing off the ball a bit more as well.
As far as the starting lineup goes, Fox could either replace Smart, or Ime Udoka could move Smart to the two and bump one of the big men out of the rotation. The spacing with Fox on the floor might not be ideal, but at least he’s shown some flashes of progression as a shooter in recent years.
Long-term impact: Out of everyone on this list, Fox’s potential long-term impact might be the best. He’s only 24 years old and on the books for four more seasons after this one. Not only will he be able to improve as a player individually, but he’ll have all the time in the world to grow with Tatum and Brown, too.
Fox, Tatum, Brown, Williams, and Smart are all under contract for the next two years, and it’ll be even longer if/when the Celtics re-sign Brown. With that core consistently improving, Boston would be a constant threat in the East.
Conclusion: Although the spacing could prove to be questionable, and the contract situation would be rough with three max deals on the books, Fox would thrive in Boston. Taking a look at his contract, age, playstyle, and current situation, he’s the best option on this list.
Fox would be Boston’s primary initiator, and he’s not a bad defender, either. This trade would not only cement Boston as one of the best young teams in the league, but it would give them the final piece to their puzzle.
Are all of these trade targets realistic options for the Celtics? Probably not. Have all of them been involved in some sort of rumors this season? Yes. That doesn’t mean that they’re destined to get traded, though. If the Celtics do pull off a trade this season, it’d probably be on a much smaller scale. It’s always fun to think about these blockbusters, though.