Jayson Tatum and Bradley Beal are close friends who grew up together. They are also spending a lot of time together on Team USA this summer.
It doesn’t take long to figure out where minds are going to go here. So let’s talk about it.
Could they team up in Boston? Sure. Anything could happen. But how? That’s the harder question.
The easy answer is that Beal makes it clear to the Wizards that he wants to be traded and prefers to be traded to Boston. The Celtics could beat most offers for him by including Jaylen Brown. I get the feeling that nobody in the organization is overly eager to give up one of their “pillars” so quickly, even if it means bringing in one of the top stars in the league.
So what other options do the Celtics have? Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports maps out a few scenarios. One of which includes trading just about every valuable asset the Celtics have besides Tatum and Brown:
The Celtics would instead offer packages that offer some combination of draft capital, young talent, and future financial flexibility. For example, Boston could build a package starting with something like three future first-round picks, some pick swaps, Al Horford (and his partially guaranteed 2022-23 salary), and Aaron Nesmith.
Depending on how Boston’s current offseason plays out, there could be other iterations like bundling picks, a re-signed Evan Fournier, and an extended Marcus Smart to make salaries match. The point here: Boston will have multiple ways to construct a deal.
That makes sense from the Celtics perspective. The question is if the Wizards would be amenable to that. If they even decide to move on from Beal (not a given) they would certainly canvas the league for bids. There are teams out there with dozens of future picks that could make things very interesting in a bidding war.
Of course Beal could make it obvious that his list of preferred teams (ones he would be willing to re-sign with after his contract expires) is limited to the Celtics and a few other teams that don’t have the assets to outbid Boston. Again, I don’t know if Beal would take the Anthony Davis route, but I guess you never know.
The other route is to be patient and wait for Beal to become a free agent. Stevens talked so lovingly of the “financial flexibility” achieved in the Al Horford deal that you have to wonder if this is an outcome they have their eye on.
The problem there is creating enough cap space to sign a max contract guy. And that would mean dumping a whole lot of salaries, including Smart, Horford, Fournier (if he’s re-signed), and probably Robert Williams as well. The logistics of finding homes for all those guys without taking back salary would seem problematic.
In general this whole thing is giving me flashbacks to the year-plus courtship for Gordon Hayward based on the relationship he had with Brad Stevens. I guess you could say that worked out, until it didn’t.
Beal and Tatum have been friends for forever and nothing is going to change that. They have every opportunity to hang out with each other in the offseasons or at All-Star events. It isn’t a given that they’ll insist on playing together in the same city.
But anything is possible.
The bottom line is that if everyone involved wants to make this happen, there are ways to get Bradley Beal to Boston. But it wouldn’t be easy or without considerable cost.