After a disastrous loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics must consider some big changes, including trading Jaylen Brown.
Jaylen Brown was absolutely phenomenal during the regular season, setting career highs nearly across the board and making All-NBA Second Team. That latter honor makes him eligible for a supermax extension at the end of next season, which could be worth as much as $295 million over five years.
Deciding to commit nearly $100 million combined per season to him and Jayson Tatum was always going to be a big decision for the Celtics. But the math has only been complicated by Brown’s struggles against the Heat — his scoring average dropping for the second consecutive playoff round, shooting just 41.8 percent from the field and 16.3 percent from beyond the arc and completely melting down with 8 turnovers and 1-of-9 from beyond the arc in Game 7.
Brown is an immensely talented player but his new contract could lock the Celtics into a core that they may not be convinced can get them a title. And if they decide it won’t work, they’re likely better off trading him this summer, rather than dragging it out into next season.
The trick is that if the Celtics are going to trade Jaylen Brown they’ll have to find a partner who can absorb his current salary and be willing to pay him the supermax extension he’s eligible for but which wouldn’t kick in until the end of next season. That limits the possibilities but there are still hypotheticals that put Brown in a good situation where he can take on a leadership role, and in which the Celtics preserve their competitiveness and flexibility for the future.
Jaylen Brown replacements for the Celtics: 3. Kevin Porter Jr.
If part of the rationale for trading Brown is seeking more consistency, Kevin Porter Jr. is … not that. He’s smaller than Brown, a much less accomplished defender and doesn’t have any real track record of producing in a winning situation. But he’s athletic with untapped scoring potential and he was a versatile producer in the chaos of the Rockets, averaging 19.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game last season, shooting 36.6 percent from beyond the arc.
But the hypothetical appeal for the Celtics would be landing an immediate stopgap with some upside and a package of other pieces and picks to make it worth their while. The Celtics could theoretically demand Porter Jr., Tari Eason and both of the Rockets’ picks in this year’s draft — No. 4 and No. 20.
If Harden isn’t coming to the Rockets, this is a chance for them to add a legitimate star and a strong mentor for Jalen Green and the rest of this young roster, someone who can help stabilize them on the court (this may be especially valuable if Brown developed a good relationship with Ime Udoka). For the Celtics, they get a starter to take Brown’s place, a Grant Williams replacement or understudy in Eason and then potentially another high-upside player like Cam Whitmore, Amen or Ausar Thompson or Jarace Walker near the top of the draft, along with whatever they decide to value at No. 20.
It’s certainly not the best win-now package for the Celtics, but it offers an interesting mix of present and future value.