Don’t bank on the Boston Celtics breaking up the duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Although there’s been heavy debate about whether the young stars can coexist, even leading to intense trade speculation, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens sounds more than willing to continue building around Tatum and Brown despite Boston’s struggles this season.
“At the end of the day, I think they’re by far the least of my concerns,” Stevens told The Athletic’s Jay King as part of an interview published Monday. “I’ve talked about this a ton, they are 23 and 25 and they are carrying new burdens. The burdens that really began last year and just continue to increase and that you just have to get used to as the best players in the building. So if you look at it kind of in totality of what those guys have done in their first five years and six years in the NBA, I think that there’s a reason to just take a step back and just remember how unique and good they are, and continue to try to find our best way as a group to help complement them. And they need to continue to improve, there’s no doubt about that. But they’ve shown no reason for anyone not to think they will.”
Tatum and Brown have blossomed into All-Star-caliber players since being drafted third overall in 2017 and 2016, respectively. Each is equipped to thrive within the modern NBA, and each seemingly still has room for growth. On the surface, Boston would be crazy to trade either player.
That said, the status quo just isn’t cutting it. Maybe Boston ultimately will find a way to add a third star alongside Tatum and Brown. Or maybe their continued development coupled with some minor roster reconfiguration will pave the way for better days. But the Celtics, collectively, aren’t performing up to expectations for the second straight season, raising more questions about the team’s nucleus.
Still, Stevens is maintaining faith in the dynamic tandem.
“I think that sometimes we lump (Tatum and Brown) together and I guess I have in these first couple of minutes (of the conversation). But at the end of the day, they’re much different,” Stevens told King. “And in a day and age where the versatility of your team is really, really important — because you’ve gotta be able to extend defensively out to 25 feet on almost every guy on almost every possession, and you’ve gotta be able to both shoot it and drive it and score in a variety of ways — those two guys make a lot of sense to build around.”
Tatum, 23, is in his fifth season. Brown, 25, is in his sixth. At some point, the Celtics might need to take a long look in the mirror with regards to their two franchise cornerstones.
For now, it’s all about adding pieces around them that are good enough to help Boston reach the next level in the Eastern Conference.