Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown Are Not Meshing, and It’s Time for the Celtics To Trade One of Them

Through the first quarter of the 2021-22 season, the Boston Celtics have struggled to gain any sort of traction in the Eastern Conference standings.

Although it’s quite early in the campaign, the Celtics have fallen slightly out of the playoff picture, which has drawn questions directed toward the fit of the roster — much of which concerns the play of their two young stars.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have established themselves as two of the game’s best young talents, but are highly similar players, and their combined play hasn’t resulted in the Celtics becoming a legitimate championship-contending team.

It has led to internal issues flaring up, headlined by point guard Marcus Smart calling out both Tatum and Brown for their unwillingness to pass the ball.

“Every team knows we’re trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen,” Smart said after a 128-114 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 1, via ESPN. “Every team is programmed and studied to stop Jayson and Jaylen. I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball.”

“That’s something that they’re going to learn. They’re still learning. We’re proud of the progress they’re making, but they’re going to have to make another step and find ways to not only create for themselves but create for others on this team to open up the court for them later down in the game.”

The loss to the Bulls led to a players’ only meeting, but it didn’t exactly create a better sense of communication and clarity. 

At this point, it might be past the point of no return. It may be time to trade one of the two young stars.

While there is no shortage of talent between them, together it’s not helping push Boston forward. The Celtics are stuck in neutral, and moving on from one of them will be the long-term betterment of the franchise. 

Tatum is currently one of six players to shoot below 40% from the floor on 20-plus attempts per contest since 1954, according to StatMuse.

His offensive shortcomings have led to reports emerging, with an anonymous Eastern Conference assistant coach bashing Tatum’s motives as being selfish.

“Jayson Tatum is about Jayson Tatum,” the coach said, via Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “I don’t think he cares about winning now, and if he does, it is on his terms. He doesn’t want to score 15 and win. He wants to score 39 and win.”

Tatum’s offensive struggles have amped up the outside noise. Meanwhile, Brown has struggled to stay on the floor, playing in 12 games where he’s averaging 22.4 points on a team-best 47.3% shooting from the field and 37.0% from distance. 

The 25-year-old is still dealing with some lingering issues related to his hamstring problem that kept him off the floor for a couple of weeks. He has missed time since he returned and isn’t entirely past the ailment.

A trade will not only give one of them a fresh start elsewhere, but net a significant haul in return the team can build with through the draft, or move the assets to add more talents.

The question becomes: which player is more likely to be moved?

Tatum is in the first year of his five-year, $163 million deal that runs through the 2025-26 campaign, with a roughly $37 million option for the final year. Meanwhile, Brown is in the second year of his four-year, $106.3 million contract that runs through the 2023-24 season. 

Each player is on reasonable pay scales for their talent, as they can become the clear-cut top option for many teams around the league. The length of Brown’s contract could come into play as a factor that could see the team lean toward trading him, as he’s only under a deal for the following two seasons.

The Celtics may view Tatum’s talent, combined with having him under a deal for up to the next four years after this season, as the impetus for keeping him in Boston. The Celtics can certainly go in either direction, but it may be a matter of who the front office believes has a higher ceiling and can grow as the top option in their offensive game plan. 

Boston should be able to fetch a significant trade package for either player, as each should garner at least one first-round pick in a deal along with some young talent and veteran pieces. The Celtics would be looking for a frontcourt piece to help provide more stability.

Al Horford has been a reliable factor, but he isn’t the player he once was. The Celtics could grab another young player as a supporting piece around either Tatum or Brown. Boston could talk to the Minnesota Timberwolves if Karl-Anthony Towns remains unhappy with the direction of the franchise. 

Granted, it may take a little more to pry him free, but moving either Tatum or Brown would be a strong start to a trade package to land Towns. They could be part of a strong nucleus of Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell as they could add another proven scorer with highly valuable playoff experience.

It’s hard to truly gauge the market at this moment, but the Celtics should be able to fetch a significant package for their star talent. Boston must be willing to not hold premium value, but the trade chatter should begin with a first-round pick as the basis to start any trade discussion.

If either Brown or Tatum are made available, there will certainly be several teams lining up to acquire one of them. They each hold the unique ability to quickly step in as a team’s first or second scoring option, which is something that is not readily available in the trade market.  They are bonafide talents with plenty of room for growth to develop into more dynamic scorers.

Meanwhile, each is locked into a multi-year deal, which gives more of an appeal as there won’t be the necessity to pay either player for at least the next couple of years. It’s an appealing situation that the Celtics are waiting to determine if it’s indeed the situation they should head with one of their star players. 

Boston isn’t pressed for time, but the more the team struggles to find its footing, the more glaringly obvious it becomes that the team needs to break up the two young stars to elevate the franchise forward.

The Celtics have a pressing, inevitable decision to make that will change the fate of the franchise along with the careers of each of these young talents. 

If the franchise hopes to finally head toward where they believe they can go, it will need them to make the tough decision to move on from one of their star players. The longer the situation remains unresolved, the more prominently things will signal a trade is what’s best in Boston.

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