To win in the NBA these days, teams need two or three stars. Just look at recent history: the Lakers had LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Raptors had Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, the Golden State Warriors had Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson.
Right now, the Celtics have one and a half stars.
Jayson Tatum, despite his youth, has shown the potential to be the go-to guy on a championship-caliber team. Jaylen Brown has improved immensely over the past couple seasons, but even if he reaches Tatum’s level, the Celtics may still need a third star. So, if the C’s want to compete for a championship, they will need to lure in some high level talent.
Who might that be? The trending names right now are Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards.
Lillard has spent nine seasons in Portland as a consistently elite scorer, most recently averaging 29 points, four rebounds and eight assists this past season. Despite showing loyalty in the past, the point guard has become frustrated with the franchise and could request to move, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes.
As for Beal, the nine-year veteran is coming off his best season, putting up 31 points, five rebounds and four assists per game. The Wizards haven’t shown too much interest in moving Beal, since he’s clearly their best, most valuable player. However, Beal only has one more year on his contract, which lines up perfectly with the Celtics clearing up space for a max slot in the summer of 2022.
Recruiting top stars in the league in 2021 is wildly different from past eras. Teams used to invite free agents to their city and show them around, attempting to woo them more often. Now, recruiting is based more on personal relationships among players.
If the Celtics want to be in the mix for big-name free agents in the near future, it will fall on Tatum’s shoulders to lure a close friend to Boston. Even though Tatum doesn’t strike as the recruiting type, he has strong relationships with both Lillard and Beal.
Lillard wanted Tatum to come play with him on Team USA for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, and Tatum accepted, illustrating their mutual interest and respect. This summer could be a great opportunity for the two to connect even more and build a bond that might entice Lillard to come to Boston.
“Lillard was also in communication with Boston Celtics wing Jayson Tatum, who put off his decision on Team USA for some time after the season ended to evaluate his offseason priorities,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported.
Tatum has always had a close relationship with Beal. The two grew up together in St. Louis, with Beal acting as something of an older brother figure for Tatum.
Getting out of a situation you don’t love, teaming up with one of your best friends and playing for one of the most historic franchises sounds pretty enticing for Beal.
The likelihood of the Celtics getting both of these players is slim to none. However, luring one to Boston is doable. Beal is the more realistic choice, due to Tatum’s closer relationship with him and the timing of his contract. He would be a great addition to the C’s and be the other star to push them over the edge.
Lillard is not out of the realm of possibility, but it’s less likely, even though he would be the better fit. For starters, he is a point guard, which Boston desperately needs. Beal is more of a shooting guard, like Jaylen Brown. Lillard also is more of a threat on the perimeter, and the Celtics could use more of that. Plus, his nickname is “Dame Time,” because he shows up in the biggest moments and is arguably the best crunch-time player in the league.
The concern, of course, is that the recruiting goes the other way and Tatum is enticed to leave Boston. But either Beal or Lillard would automatically put the Celtics in title contention.
Now, it’s on Tatum to get one of them here. He might not seem like a big recruiting guy, but he’s going to have to be if the Celtics want to make it back to the NBA Finals.