Kevin Durant's decision to file for divorce from the Brooklyn Nets dramatically changes the NBA landscape. When this trade, which could potentially happen as early as today, comes to fruition, the slim reaper will either put a team like the Suns over the top or elevate another franchise into a title contender.
Coming two wins from raising banner 18 to the TD Garden rafters this year, the Celtics fall into the former category. But rather than committing to the potential of a younger pairing in 24-year-old Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who turns 26 in October, should Boston part with the latter, as painful as it would be, to become what this author believes would be the best team in the NBA?
There is no wrong answer, at least not when trying to project the best path forward. If Durant and Tatum stay healthy, that tandem could produce one, if not multiple, championships.
Durant is 34, but he's coming off a campaign where he earned All-NBA Second-Team honors, averaging nearly 30 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game. He's also a high-level defender.
More concerning than KD's age is he's six-foot-ten with a history of foot injuries and three years removed from tearing his Achilles. The Celtics could trade a package centered around Brown only to watch it blow up in their face.
They also have to consider what happens if they pursue Durant, with all sides knowing it would cost them Brown, and see the former league MVP end up elsewhere. Durant doesn't have an opt-out or veto power, but the Nets appear to be working with him to find a landing spot that will satisfy both sides.
Durant's friends with Tatum, but Boston's not on his reported list of preferred destinations, which according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, starts with the Suns and Heat. That doesn't mean he'll end up at any of those places or wouldn't enjoy teaming up with Tatum, but it's worth noting. Especially in a league where stars don't usually end up disappointed about their destination after forcing their way to a new team.
So, if the Celtics come up short in their pursuit of Durant, that's something they'd have to smooth over with Brown, and it could contribute to losing him when he's an unrestricted free agent in 2024.
So, while it's enticing to envision a potential Durant and Tatum pairing, a gamble that's worth the risk, the safer play, sitting out the KD sweepstakes, at least not trying to be the team that acquires him, could produce more opportunities to raise the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
And while championship windows in the NBA often close sooner than expected, the franchise demonstrating loyalty to Brown right now is a gesture that figures to help keep Boston's open beyond Brown's current contract.