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In a trade for Kevin Durant, it’s the “what else” that matters most for the Celtics

Jaylen Brown will have to be included, but who else should the Celtics be willing to part ways with in a Durant deal?

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So, the Boston Celtics are looking into a Kevin Durant trade. While the report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN came as a bit of a shock due to the timing, this news shouldn’t be surprising.

As soon as Durant requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets, every team around the league was destined to give them a call. Durant is one of the best players in NBA history and arguably the best player on planet earth right now. Looking into a deal for him is just good business.

Shams Charania of The Athletic followed up the initial report from Wojnarowski, revealing that the Nets had rejected one of Boston’s offers that included star Jaylen Brown. Brooklyn will be looking for a star in return for Durant, so Brown would almost certainly have to be included in any deal.

But it’s the “what else” that should be a concern for the Celtics.

Picks are a given. Any team that ends up trading for Durant will have to part ways with multiple first-round picks, and the Celtics are no exception to that rule. However, if the Nets start asking for key rotational players on top of Brown, that’s where Boston should balk.

Right now, the Celtics are coming off of an NBA Finals run where they were two wins away from winning a championship. Gutting their core to get Durant would be one thing, but trading Brown AND gutting their core is another. The duo of Jayson Tatum and Durant is enough to make mouths water, but if the depth behind them is subpar, then what’s the point?

If the Celtics could get Durant without trading Brown, they would have done it by now. But since Brown will have to be included in any deal for the superstar, it’s important to weigh the ups and downs of trading additional assets.

*It’s also important to note that most of the recent reports were likely leaked by the Nets’ side of things. Multiple Boston-based sources have indicated that the Celtics love Brown and that the feeling is mutual. The Celtics and Nets probably have had initial talks, but as Wojnarowski even reported himself, no deal is close to happening right now.

Financial restrictions

Next season, Durant will make roughly $46.4 million. With Brown only making $28.5 million, the Celtics would have to send extra pieces in a deal simply to match money. However, since they have multiple players that could help them match Durant’s salary, Boston has some options.

They could choose to send one of their more expensive contracts in the trade, meaning it would just be a two-for-one deal. Or, they could potentially package a few of their younger players in the trade in a similar way that they matched Malcolm Brogdon’s contract. But again, it all comes down to what assets they are willing to give up.

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Marcus Smart

This is the name that has been thrown around in some proposed trades. Bleacher Report wrote an article that suggested Boston trades Brown, Smart, a first-rounder, and two pick swaps for Durant. And while the Celtics shouldn’t have a problem giving up Smart in a deal for a superstar, it goes back to the point that they would have to give up Smart AND Brown.

Smart was the Celtics’ full-time point guard last season, and by all accounts, he did a phenomenal job. He notched a career-high in assists, took home the Defensive Player of the Year award, and helped lead the team to The Finals. Plus, he’s under contract through the 2025-26 season, meaning Boston’s core would be intact for longer.

However, in tandem with all those impressive accomplishments, Smart’s value is likely at an all-time high. After what could easily be viewed as the best year of his career, his trade value may never be higher than it is right now. And with Derrick White and Brogdon on the roster, the Celtics have plenty of guards.

So while the Celtics would probably prefer to keep Smart in a deal, capitalizing on his trade value could potentially help them maintain some leverage in negotiations when discussing pick compensation. However, Boston should try to offer other packages before they get to that point.

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Derrick White

In most cases, this would be the ideal trade. Giving up Brown, White, and picks for Durant is likely the cheapest package Boston could offer that would satisfy Brooklyn. White played well in his role for the Celtics last season, but just like was argued with Smart, Boston has enough guard depth as is. Losing White would leave them with a rotation of Smart, Brogdon, and Payton Pritchard.

At the same time, White would make a fine starting point guard if the Nets demanded Smart in a trade. He and Brogdon are perfectly capable of taking over the duties for Smart. But if the Celtics could manage it, White would probably be the easiest one to give up in a Durant trade.

Boston Celtics Press Conference for Gallinari and Brogdon Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

Malcolm Brogdon

Giving up Brogdon in a deal is possible, but it would definitely be awkward. Boston cannot trade Brogdon until August 30 due to the recently-traded restriction. Plus, he arguably holds the least value out of Boston’s core three guards.

If the Celtics had the choice to include any one of Smart, White, or Brogdon in a deal alongside Brown, Brogdon should be the immediate choice, though. Not only is he the oldest of the bunch, but he’s also injury-prone. And Boston would effectively just be swapping out Brown for Durant on last year’s roster, as Brogdon wasn’t a part of that team anyways.

At the this time, though, those are the exact reasons why Brooklyn would almost certainly not want Brogdon in a trade. Since they hold all the leverage right now, demanding either Smart or White in a trade is the clear decision for Brooklyn.

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Robert Williams

This should be the line in the sand for the Celtics. Giving up Brown and Williams in a trade for Durant would be completely throwing away Boston’s long-term timeline. Obviously, Tatum alone should be enough to make them a playoff team for years to come, but dumping two players 25-and-under for Durant (33 years old) would create a huge timeline shift.

Last season, Williams showed some amazing potential. Although he struggled with injury issues in the latter half of the season (and has for his entire career), he still played in the most games he ever has at the NBA level. Not only that, but he finished seventh in Defensive Player of the Year honors and was the backbone of the best defense in the league.

From the perspective of Brooklyn, asking for Williams is a no-brainer. But it should also be the sticking point for Boston. Parting ways with the best big man on their roster (especially considering their lack of big man depth) should be a hard no.

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Al Horford

Similar to the idea of trading Brogdon, giving up Horford wouldn’t be the end of the world, but Brooklyn probably wouldn’t want him in the trade. At 36 years old, Horford is nearing the end of his NBA career and will be heading into the final year of his contract. The Nets would almost certainly ask for guys like Smart, White, and even Brogdon before asking for Horford.

Plus, as noted when discussing the idea of trading Williams, Boston’s big man depth is shaky. Past Horford and Williams, the best true center they have on the roster is Luke Kornet. Grant Williams can play up a bit, but if Boston trades Horford or Robert Williams, he would be forced to be the team’s full-time backup center.

Trading Horford simply doesn’t make sense for either side, and that’s probably for the best.

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Grant Williams & Payton Pritchard

These two players are lumped together because neither makes enough money to be traded with Brown by themselves for Durant. That being said, trading Brown, Williams, and Pritchard for Durant would work from purely a financial perspective. So, when considering the possibility of giving up either of them, you would actually have to think about the cost of dealing both of them.

Trading Pritchard shouldn’t be that big of a deal for Boston. Reports have already come out speculating that the Celtics could be interested in dealing him regardless of a Durant deal. Their current guard depth is amazing, and Pritchard may find himself stuffed to the bottom of the depth chart.

Williams, on the other hand, is a slightly different story. Boston’s big man depth is already questionable, and the flexibility Williams brings them will be extremely helpful. But similar to Smart, his value is probably at an all-time high.

If the Nets were interested, a trade of Brown, Williams, and Pritchard would be the next best thing to a Brown/White package. With Pritchard’s standing in the guard rotation, the real losses would be Brown and Williams. And when comparing things to last year’s squad, that would essentially mean replacing Brown with Brogdon and replacing Williams with Durant.

Obviously, things aren’t that simple, and thinking of hypotheticals like that is never how things translate in reality. But if the Celtics can nab Durant without giving up Smart, White, Brogdon, or Robert Williams, that has to be something to seriously consider.

Likely outcomes

From the Celtics side of things, the best two packages are probably Brown/White or Brown/Grant Williams/Pritchard. At the same time, Brooklyn would likely request a deal revolving around Brown and Smart (if the Celtics make it clear that Robert Williams is off limits).

With Charania reporting that Brown was already offered by the Celtics, any negotiations from this point will almost certainly revolve around what else the Celtics are willing to give up. And as they look to put together a championship-caliber roster for next season, that’s where things get tricky.

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