With December 15 passing, marking the unofficial start of the NBA business season, rumors are already beginning to swirl around teams that are not living up to expectations.

One of the biggest teams in that spotlight? The Boston Celtics.

The Celtics are off to a bumpy start to the 2023-22 season, struggling to achieve some sort of consistency to start the year. With a 15-15 record, Boston has had moments when it sees itself as one of the best teams in the league (see: dominating wins over the Heat, Bucks and Lakers, all in full force), but it has also had moments where it looks like a team that can’t even qualify for the Play-In Tournament (see: a 30-point loss to the Raptors, a 20-point loss to the Bulls and Cavaliers, and a loss to the Clippers without Paul George) .

The city and fanbase are growing increasingly restless with this team, frustrated with a core group of players who, on paper, should be comfortably seated among the best in the Eastern Conference, but instead fluctuate in and out of. the image of the playoffs due to erratic effort levels. .

With a new head coach in Ime Udoka and former head coach Brad Stevens taking over as president of basketball operations, there have been many changes in key decision-making positions that could warrant patience. But with a similar roster composition in recent seasons, this year he already has a familiar feel that could lead to another deficiency.

All that to say … is it time for the Celtics to blow things up and start over? Let’s tackle some commercial rumors and possible moves to make.

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Addressing the Celtics trade rumors

Should the Celtics trade Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown?

The main question is can Tatum and Brown, two All-Stars in their 20s who have played side by side for their entire careers (aside from Brown’s rookie season), continue to coexist?

Earlier this month, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer took to Sirius XM NBA Radio to discuss the trade rumors, stating, “I think this is definitely the beginning of the end for the Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown couple. … I think sometime in the next 12 to 18 months, we’ll really start hearing conversations about the future of Boston with Jaylen Brown dating. Through the door “.

How much should you really read on that? Personally, I wouldn’t say much at all, considering how extremely wide that time frame is. It’s also worth noting that in early November, MassLive Celtics writer Brian Robb reported that his sources were “convinced that the Celtics have no interest in moving All-Star Brown in the meantime.”

But there’s no denying that if the Celtics parted ways with one of their two stars, it’s much more likely to be Brown than Tatum.

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Both players have an offensive-minded approach to the game and have even been accused of being too goal-oriented by teammate and captain Marcus Smart. Each capable of giving you more than 25 points on any given night, there has been a tendency for those two to dominate the ball and the others to receive minimal touches.

But to put it plainly, in my opinion, you can’t change Brown just by trying to change things.

The former No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft still had plenty of room for improvement at the time of his selection. In Boston, he has developed his game significantly, evolving into a scorer who creates shots with a jump shot, reaching his potential as an All-Star and at the same time becoming one of the most efficient high-volume scorers in the league. league. The fit next to Tatum doesn’t always seem perfect, but don’t be short-sighted as to forget that it has worked in the recent past.

Brown has been to three conference finals in five years so far, two of which he played a key role alongside Tatum. During that span, the Cleveland Cavaliers (with LeBron James) and the Milwaukee Bucks are the only other teams in the East with multiple Conference Finals appearances (2).

According to other players who have been linked to Boston in the past or who have reportedly been available in trade rumors so far this season, Bradley Beal and Ben Simmons have never been to a conference final. Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner never made it out of the first round of the playoffs. Brandon Ingram and De’Aaron Fox never made the playoffs.

Of course, the NBA is all about opportunity and situation, but would any of those players in a trade for Brown move the needle significantly with the current remaining roster around Tatum? I do not think so.

So what are the options without the Brown trade?

Who could the Celtics trade without giving up Tatum and Brown?

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The next three most valuable pieces on the list are Smart, Robert Williams III, and Dennis Schroder. The Celtics also have their own first-round picks for the foreseeable future.

Smart is the oldest Celtic and the heart of the team, but his elite defensive prowess makes him a potential trade card. Williams is just 24 years old and has proven to be an electrifying hoop runner, balloon spiker and shot blocker when healthy, making him an intriguing target as well. Schroder has been very solid so far on his one-year contract to “prove it,” but he’s ready to enter unrestricted free agency this offseason and because Boston likely won’t have the cap space to meet his demands. wages, your name has appeared in the first rumors.

The question is, how desirable is that trio for other teams?

There are also former young first-round picks like Grant Williams, Aaron Nesmith, Payton Pritchard and Romeo Langford, but those players are likely more likely to throw throws on a deal, not centerpieces.

Taking Sabonis as an example because he has allegedly announced his dislikes in Indiana and I love his fit alongside Tatum and Brown. Would the Pacers consider a deal packaged around a combination of Smart, Schroder and Williams along with first-round picks for their two-time All-Star? For what it’s worth, it works out in terms of salary, but Smart can’t be traded until Jan.20 due to the date of the four-year, $ 77 million extension he signed with the Celtics this offseason.

I don’t know the answer as to whether that would be enough or not. It seems close to what the Pacers would expect from a comeback, but there are other teams that could offer better long-term assets. And that’s a problem the Celtics will run into frequently when trying to make a deal without giving up on Brown.

Although Smart, Williams, Schroder, and the other young players add different levels of value, do they move the needle on a playoff team trying to achieve title contender status? Or a rebuild / retrofit team trying to set up for future success?

That’s where things get complicated without moving Brown.

Without Brown included in a potential package, a conceivable deal for a player like Simmons is almost certainly off the table. given the asking price of 76ers GM Daryl Morey. The same is likely true for other All-Stars that may be available at the trade deadline or in the future.

The dream scenario for the Celtics would be to try and add A third star to his All-Star tandem is not up to him, but that’s much easier said than done.

Unless a deal like that comes in, expect to see the Celtics continue to roll out their All-Star tandem after the trade deadline and revisit potential roster moves during the upcoming offseason.