There’s been a lot of smoke linking Bradley Beal to the Boston Celtics in the last few days. With the three-time All-Star reportedly mulling over his future in Washington ahead of the upcoming draft, the Celtics have been mentioned as one of several teams he’d prefer to be traded to should he seek to move on from the Wizards.
A player of Beal’s caliber would undoubtedly be enticing to any team vying for his services as the 28-year-old is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 31.3 points per game.
But any deal that would bring Beal to Boston has pros and cons on both sides of the argument. And they begin with the heavy price it would cost to pull off what would be a blockbuster transaction.
Celtics fans can try and avoid the inevitable all they want. No deal for Beal gets done without most likely sending Jaylen Brown to Washington. It doesn’t matter how many other players or picks Boston includes in the deal. If the Wizards plan on entering into some type of rebuild, they’re going to want the 24-year-old All-Star to headline it.
Luckily for the Celtics, a clean Brown-for-Beal swap is financially possible, but is such a deal as desirable for the court as it sounds on paper?
One of Boston’s biggest issues during its disappointing 2020-21 season was the absence of players who could make those around them better. Brown and Jayson Tatum are two of the best young scorers in the game, and perhaps playmaking will be the next step in their development. For now, though, it’s a trait they lack, as does most of the roster.
Beal is an incredible offensive talent who would make for a fearsome duo alongside Tatum, but he brings a scorer's mentality similar to Brown and Tatum. This is not to imply he’s a selfish player. He was top-10 among shooting guards in assists per game this past season, but 30-point-per-game scorers aren’t typically concerned with running the offense or getting others involved. That kind of effort is needed on a Wizards team that lacks much scoring punch, but what exactly does it do for the Celtics in place of what Brown brings?
You’re talking about adding a better scorer, but that was never Boston’s issue. They don’t need a better version of what they already have—a not-too-shabby scorer who averaged over 24 points a game this past season. They need to address issues elsewhere.
And by swapping Brown for Beal, the minimal boost the Celtics would receive on offense would come at the expense of a noticeable drop at the defensive end.
Beal is undersized as a 6’3’’ shooting guard. And though he certainly deserves a bit of slack for his defensive shortcomings considering the load he’s carried offensively in recent years; it’s hard to see him suddenly morphing into a positive stopper after falling comfortably into a role that primarily emphasizes his scoring.
Comparatively, Brown is better suited to guard multiple positions at 6’6’’ and approximately 223 pounds. His motor at that end has always remained high, and the Celtics trust him guarding some of the best perimeter threats in the NBA. Lose him, and a middling defense probably takes a noticeable drop, whereas an already top-10 offense likely hovers around that same area.
Zach Lowe just now on ESPN's Woj & Lowe special regarding Bradley Beal:— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) July 25, 2021
"Is Boston going to offer Jaylen Brown? I don't think so." pic.twitter.com/eOvSv7Tu7u
All of the aforementioned also falls under the false assumption that Washington wouldn’t attempt to pry more from the Celtics in exchange for their franchise player. They’re going to start a bidding war for Beal. Though Brown might be the single most attractive player they could get back, that doesn’t mean a team can’t top the Celtics with a better overall package.
So, if the effects of a Beal-Brown swap are accurate on both sides of the floor—Boston’s offense gets minimally better while their defense takes a significant drop—would those issues not be exacerbated if, say, Marcus Smart and/or Payton Pritchard had to be included in the deal? Would forfeiting draft picks that could help shore up deficiencies elsewhere not feel like a bit of a waste?
This discussion also assumes that Beal, who has a player option for the 2022-23 season, would commit to Boston beyond his current deal. Considering how Brown’s contract runs through the 2023-24 season with no opt-out, the Celtics might not want to risk watching Beal walk in a year when they could have an ever-improving All-Star for the next three.
Even if Beal does sign a long-term deal with the Celtics, his next contract will pay him north of $40 million a year. Brown’s current deal won’t pay him more than $28.5 million in any single year. If ownership is going to commit to that added money, they better be confident it will bring the team closer to a championship.
seen both of these statements a lot lately— CelticsBlog (@celticsblog) July 25, 2021
"No way the Celtics get Beal without giving up Brown."
"The Celtics don't have to give up Brown, they'll get Beal anyway."
been around too long to take either comment seriously
Of course, no factor in a potential Beal trade has more influence than the desires of Tatum. As good as Brown is, he is not the face of the franchise or its future. He’s not the one with MVP potential. Those attributes belong to Tatum, so if bringing aboard his childhood friend generates the kind of goodwill that will factor into future contract negotiations, Boston’s hands might be tied.
The Celtics knew they needed to make changes over the offseason. Trading Kemba Walker was a solid first step. To return to the top of the Eastern Conference, however, more is needed.
Perhaps Beal offers the sheer star power to get them closer to the standard held by the Bucks and Nets. Or maybe the allure of his talent has Boston overlooking the factors of a trade that might only get them so far, if not keep them in place or perhaps even send them backward.