Celtics

Bradley Beal would be a fine addition to Celtics — but not if it costs them Jaylen Brown

Bradley Beal, Jaylen Brown
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal dribbles the ball against Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown. AP Photo/Nick Wass


COMMENTARY

The list of potentially available NBA stars coveted in trade by Celtics fans in recent seasons includes Anthony Davis, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard to some degree, and probably one or two others that have been lost in the dusty archives of my mind.

Wait, wait, here’s another: Remember when Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo met up at Fenway Park and we thought that duo might be the future of the franchise? How was that seven years ago already? Rondo has played for seven teams since then. Circumstances sure do change fast in the NBA.

The latest addition to the list is Bradley Beal, the Wizards’ three-time All-Star guard, who reportedly is considering requesting a trade before Thursday night’s NBA Draft. Beal, who averaged 31.3 points per game this past season — second in the league only to Steph Curry (32.0) — is one of the smoothest shooters in the NBA.

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If you don’t see Sonics-era Ray Allen when you watch Beal, it must be because you don’t remember Sonics-era Ray Allen, who averaged 26.4 points per game in his last season with Seattle before coming to the Celtics and sacrificing some of his own offense to help put a banner in the rafters.

Beyond his silky Shuttlesworthian offensive game, Beal seems to check the “good teammate” and “likable personality” boxes as well. Every team should want him, including the Celtics — maybe especially the Celtics, given that appealing variable of his friendship with Jayson Tatum that began during their childhoods in St. Louis.

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Acquiring Beal is a daydream that might just morph into a real possibility. If he decides to request a trade, he will have major leverage regarding where he ends up. He can be a free agent following next season if he declines his player option, and given the cost necessary to acquire a player of his magnitude, a team that trades for him has to have a high level of confidence that he will stick around beyond next year.

Could that team be the Celtics? It cannot be ignored that Tatum posted a shamrock in the comments on an Instagram report that Beal might want out. I’d bet a decent amount of another kind of green that the old pals have discussed the possibility of uniting in Boston.

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But here’s the thing about coveting a star from another team. Sometimes familiarity makes you underestimate what you already have.

I’d love to see Beal with the Celtics. Just not if it means giving up Jaylen Brown to make it happen.

Don’t take this as if I’m about to suggest one of those ridiculously lopsided, why-in-the-world-would-the-other-team-do-this? trades that you might hear on the worst sports radio shows. I’m fairly sure the Wizards would not accept Tristan Thompson, Carsen Edwards, and “a bunch of picks” for Beal even if the salaries did match (and obviously they don’t).

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I am saying that if Beal decides to maneuver his way to Boston, there are semi-reasonable ways to make it happen without including Brown. The Celtics have all of their future first-round picks beyond Thursday’s draft. Three first-rounders in non-consecutive years (because of the Stepien Rule), a couple of pick swaps, and salaries that could include Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and assorted other potential combinations might make sense for the Wizards if Beal plays the leverage game a certain way — which, specifically, would be: Trade me to Boston or I’m out of here as a free agent in a year. The clock starts now.

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If the Wizards don’t ask for Brown, the competence of their front office should be questioned. But Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens should make it immediately clear that Brown is not going anywhere. He’s 24 years old, makes approximately $10 million less per year than Beal, is conscientious and smart, works hard, and has improved significantly every year.

Last season, Brown averaged career highs in points (24.7), assists (3.4, up from a previous high of 2.1), field goal percentage (48.4), free throw percentage (76.4), and 3-point percentage (39.7), among other categories.

And there is still room to grow. Brown is a drastically improved ballhandler and shooter since he entered the league in 2016-17. He needs to become a more adept passer, which will help him mesh with Tatum better. It seems logical to me, given his development so far, that passing will be the next area in which he takes a leap forward.

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It’s as easy to nitpick a familiar player’s imperfections as it is to overlook or be unaware of the flaws of another team’s star. Brown has his flaws. So does Beal, and every other mortal in the league.

One of the great joys of following a team is watching a young player work hard to figure things out from year to year and add new skills to his repertoire. Brown has done that as well as any young Celtic in recent memory, the scoring machine Tatum included. I want to see what they can be in tandem when they both have it all figured out.

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If the Celtics can figure out a way to add Beal as their third star to the two they already have, well, that certainly would build anticipation for the coming season.

But if it’s an either/or scenario, I’d rather continue to watch Brown grow here than make a lateral move for the player with whom Tatum grew up.

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