The Celtics are 2-5, on a three-game losing streak and coming off what was one of the most uninspiring and pitiful losses in recent memory—a 14-point fourth-quarter lead that boomeranged into a 14-point loss to Chicago. That happens to be the first instance in NBA history of a team leading by that much in the final quarter and going on to lose by that much.
We know what happened after, as point guard Marcus Smart threw stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown under the bus, noting that the pair, “don’t want to pass.” Things are not looking good seven games into the season—but are you really prepared for the Celtics to blow it up and enter into tank mode?
That was the assertion of longtime basketball writer and Stadium NBA insider Jeff Goodman, who appeared on the Toucher and Rich show on 98.5 in Boston. When one host said that the Celtics do not want to waste this season, Goodman interjected.
“I think you do, I think you want to waste a season,” he said. “Because mediocrity will not help this team at all. They’re not going anywhere this year. Maybe they sneak into the playoffs. I said this months ago, I think they’re probably in that play-in range. Why not suck, get a really good draft pick?”
Goodman Has Pushed Celtics to Trade Brown for Bradley Beal
Goodman cited big men Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga and Paolo Banchero of Duke as potential Celtics draft targets. That would, of course, allow the Celtics to start over with youth, but would not address the team’s shortage at point guard. But Goodman noted that trading away one of the Celtics’ two stars would allow Boston to bring in a point guard down the road, or simply trade for a player like the oft-rumored Bradley Beal of the Wizards.
Beal, as has been much-discussed, is a childhood friend of Tatum’s and would, presumably, be a more natural fit alongside Tatum. Here’s how Goodman explained:
What (trading Brown or Tatum) would do is, you have another asset you could trade for a point guard,” Goodman said. “I’ve been banging the drum with Bradley Beal. Don’t you want to see guys playing off each other, don’t you want to see guys happy on the court? They don’t have a lot of assets that are worth anything other than Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. And I’m not trading Jayson Tatum, I’m just not. I still think he is going to be an MVP candidate if you get enough around him. Is he capable yet of being that? No, he is not there yet. But part of the problem is there is nothing easy for these guys. They have to manufacture everything.
Tanking Easier Said Than Done for the Celtics
Of course, there are some holes in Goodman’s approach. If the Celtics were to trade Jaylen Brown as part of a package for Bradley Beal, the Celtics would have Beal and Tatum, and probably still be a mediocre East seed.
If the Celtics wanted to completely tank and be in financial position to make a run at Beal in the free-agent market next summer, they would have to have a fire sale—in addition to Brown, Boston at least would need to trade Smart and Josh Richardson, and waive Al Horford, eating $14.5 million on his contract. That won’t be easy, given that Smart is shooting 29.3% from the field and Richardson is averaging all of 7.3 points.
Both players got extensions this summer. Smart is now due $91 million over the next five seasons, and Richardson got an extra $12 million for next season. No matter how little the Celtics ask in return for those two players, just getting a team to take on the money will be difficult enough.
So, in the end, chasing a draft pick and planning out a pursuit of Beal probably would not work at all. Besides, the team has played seven games. Probably a bit too soon to put the tank option into place.