The Celtics are at a fork in the road. What direction they take will have massive implications on their championship pursuits.
This author’s long advocated for Boston paying Jaylen Brown a five-year, $295 million veteran supermax extension. Even with Jayson Tatum a summer away from being eligible for a five-year, $318 million supermax extension and the restrictive nature of living over the second apron of the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement.
Brown’s extension won’t take effect until the 2024-25 season, and Tatum’s won’t until 2025-26, so the franchise has two years to keep most of its rotation intact and see if their star tandem can lead them to a title.
Maybe it works, and trying to build around Tatum and Brown’s accounting for roughly 70 percent of the team’s salary cap is a prospect they pivot from. Perhaps their All-NBA duo doesn’t reach the top of the summit in the next two years. But at the moment, it’s challenging to find a return for the Georgia native that isn’t a downgrade in talent.
The former All-NBA member is one season into a five-year, $251 million contract, making it financially unfeasible to form a new big three with Tatum, Brown, and Beal. The latter’s also about to turn 30 and has a lengthy injury history.
Performance-wise, while his scoring’s dropped from averaging a career-high 31.3 points in 2020-21, he’s still effective at creating shots off the dribble. He’s produced 23.2 points per contest in the last two campaigns, but he’s done so with defenses keying on him as he shoulders much of the offensive burden.
If the Wizards do trade Beal, they will not get anything near equal value. Beal is still a good scorer, averaging 23 points per game on a sorry Wizards team last year, but injuries have plagued him over the last few years and nobody really knows if this version of Beal is capable of playing winning basketball. Coupled with his massive supermax contract and Washington would be trading him just to kickstart a rebuild, not to receive a superstar trade haul in return.
All that said, Beal is a bucket-getter (with zero offcourt issues) and every team needs a guy like him. So let’s see what the potential destinations for Beal would look like if the Wizards do trade their longtime face of the franchise.
The only team to get name-dropped so far, it’s not hard to understand the Heat’s motivation to get a deal done. Yeah, Beal is wildly expensive and on the older side, but Miami has rehabilitated players with much worse stock than Beal before. The lack of creation outside of Jimmy Butler was obvious by the time the Heat reached the NBA Finals and they certainly cannot expect another month of white-hot shooting to propel them through next year’s playoffs.
What makes this deal likely is not what the Heat have to offer but rather their ability to execute a deal straight-up thanks to the salaries on their books. Offering Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson is enough to match Beal’s salary. That return is where the issue lies, though. Washington is going to want more than that and the Heat have only their own draft picks to offer (minus their 2025 selection) and that’s a raw deal for the Wiz. Maybe Miami get get a third team involved that will take Herro, put Kyle Lowry’s expiring deal in his place to send to Washington, and get another group of assets from that third team to entice Washington. The bones are here for a trade, though.
The Heat probably lack the ammunition to trade for a typical superstar. Portland likely isn’t taking Tyler Herro and three first-round picks for Damian Lillard, for instance, unless Lillard were to try force the issue. But a flawed All-Star like Beal? Right in their wheelhouse. Few teams are better at maximizing what a player does well and minimizing his weaknesses than the Heat.
If the Heat put Herro and three first-round picks on the table, this thing probably gets done quickly. How much room will they have to haggle? It will depend on what other offers Washington gets. Maybe the compromise here involves Washington eating the bad contracts of Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson, which would in turn free up more money beneath the second apron for Miami to re-sign Gabe Vincent and Max Strus. No matter the offer, the Heat enter these sweepstakes as the heavy favorite, and can probably get this thing done for less than that all-in “three picks and Herro” package.
There’s no easy path here for Boston. The Celtics will have access to all of their first-round picks once their obligation to Indiana expires next week and could therefore offer as many as four first-rounders to Washington, but that would mean having three max salaries moving forward. That might not be an absolute non-starter, but it would effectively lock Boston into finishing above the second apron four years in a row, which would have enormous team-building ramifications while also costing ownership a fortune. They could dangle Jaylen Brown instead, but does Washington even want a star veteran about to sign a new max contract? He wouldn’t exactly help their rebuild if he stayed, and the Wizards couldn’t risk losing him for nothing. In any event, Brown is simply more valuable than Beal is today.
Maybe there’s a three-team construction here in which Boston moves Brown to a third party and then, with its newly-acquired cap flexibility, uses picks to go get Beal. A scenario in which the Celtics make their rumored-swap of Brown to Portland for the No. 3 pick makes some sense in this regard. Tatum and Beal could keep the Celtics in contention right now, but Brandon Miller or Scoot Henderson on a cost-controlled contract for four years would go a long way towards keeping long-term expenses down.
This is all speculation. For now, the likeliest approach for Boston this offseason is going to involve only slight retooling around Tatum and Brown. However, it’s worth noting that Brown has not yet agreed to an extension, and NBA friendship frequently result in partnerships. Until we know for sure that Tatum and Beal aren’t pairing up, we can’t rule it out as a possibility.
Beal, who has played his entire 11-year career with Washington, has enjoyed a close relationship with the community and with owner Ted Leonsis. Nevertheless, Leonsis said he has given Winger full autonomy on whether he wants to pursue a rebuild with the Wizards or continue a trajectory around high-priced veteran talent.
The Wizards are awaiting player-option decisions by forwards Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis, who can both become unrestricted free agents. This year, players will be allowed to invite ten people with them to sit at their individual tables, up from five in years past.
The process of deciding whom to invite to the NBA draft involves communication with presidents or general managers of teams picking throughout the first round. Teams are asked to vote on the top 25 players they expect to hear their names called first. This is to ensure players aren’t sitting for very long before a national television audience as the second round approaches.
Receiving an invitation is considered a positive sign for a player’s draft stock, although there have been instances in the past of prospects falling to the second round while sitting in the green room such as Bol Bol, Deyonta Davis, Nic Claxton, Maciej Lampe, Rashard Lewis and others.
Jaden Hardy was selected No. 37 last year despite being one of 25 players invited to the green room. However, Williams received good news about Lisa’s health sooner than the family anticipated. And once he connected with the Pistons again later in the month, a deal came together quickly to make him the team’s coach.
“That was a huge part of my decision-making,” Williams said Tuesday at his introductory news conference. “The patience the Pistons had with that told me a lot.”
Williams said he was discussing his wife’s health in an attempt to help others and stress the importance of testing.
“The reason that I bring it up is to not talk about my family, but to make it more of an emphasis that women need early-detection testing,” said Williams, whose first wife, Ingrid, died in a car crash in 2016. “We had genetic testing done and then scan after scan after scan and then we found it early, and that may have saved my wife’s life. It can save others.”
The Pistons finished with their worst record since 1979-80, but their dismal showing did not turn into good luck at the draft lottery. Detroit landed the No.5 pick for the second consecutive season, missing out on the opportunity to select French prospect Victor Wembanyama, who is expected to go No.1 overall.
Still, the Pistons have a foundation on their roster from recent top draft picks, including Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 overall selection in 2021, and Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, who went No. 5 and No. 13, respectively, last summer. The entire roster, other than Bojan Bogdanovic, who is from Croatia, sat in attendance for Williams’ introduction Tuesday.
“You can see the talent of this group and you see the size, but what I’m really impressed by is the people,” Williams said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a press conference for a head coach and all the players show up. That’s what I see: a hunger, a desire. They all want it.
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