The Boston Celtics were eliminated from the postseason in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the two engines that drove Boston to great heights this season, put forth two very poor performances. While Tatum can blame his bad night on an ankle sprain he suffered on the first play of the game, Brown had no excuses and admitted as much afterwards. The pair of All-NBA teammates came up short when the moment was greatest for the second year in a row and will watch the Miami Heat take on the Denver Nuggets from the couch.
The discourse about this Celtics team would have slanted very, very, very negatively if they had gotten swept after going down 3-0. For good reason, too. Losing in Game 7 doesn't improve things dramatically but it has, at least to this point, staved off the slew of "Can Tatum and Brown win together" discussions that dominated the first half of the 2021-22 season and the offseason leading up to the 2022-23 season. I am here to strongly suggest sports media does not go down that road again because it is a useless discussion.
Why is that? Because Tatum and Brown can win together. And, perhaps more relevantly, there is no universe in which either gets traded this offseason.
After Brown turned the ball over eight times and went 8-for-23 from the field against the Heat in Game 7, turning in a heinous final performance to a heinous series when his superstar teammate needed him to pick up the slack most, the calls for him to get traded grew very loud. Especially since Brown is up for a supermax extension after earning second-team All-NBA, an extension that would pay him a truly comical $290 million over five years. Nobody with eyes thought Brown looked like a supermax player in Game 7. I am certainly not here to argue otherwise. It's definitely an overpay for a guy who tops out as the No. 2 option. But there just isn't a trade that Boston can make that results in a better chance at winning a title next season, or the following season. Or anytime in the near future, really.
That's because all the theoretical Brown trades being thrown around (like the Damian Lillard and third overall pick swap that Kendrick Perkins likes to push) leave out the fact that nobody can pay Brown $290 million. Only the Celtics can. Every other team is capped out at offering a $184 million contract, and if everyone can offer the same, there is zero reason to believe Brown would show any loyalty to whatever team trades for him. There are plenty of teams who would love the chance to convince him to stay, but the teams desperate enough to do that without a contract extension in place are teams who cannot offer something Boston would accept in return. A team like the Blazers are not going to trade Lillard for the chance of keeping Brown for more than one season, and the Celtics are not going to trade him to a team like the Hawks for a bunch of expiring contracts and unproven young players.
Tatum obviously is not going to get moved. When the talking heads on television monologue about breaking up the duo they are only talking about trading Brown. Above are all the reasons why the Celtics will not do that anytime soon. Now it's time to explain why they should not.
And does that really need all that much explanation? Through daily debate timeframe it must feel like Tatum and Brown have been teamed up for decades but it's only been six seasons. A very successful six seasons, even if they don't have a title to show for it. Why would any NBA team trade either of their two foundational players that have appeared in four of the last six conference finals? Why would they do so when neither of those players have even turned 27 years-old yet? The only reason to pull the plug this early is if there was some serious off-court issues involving one or both. That does not seem to be the case and as such it makes no sense for the Celtics to do anything but keep them.
So let's not do this all again. The general questions being asked about each player's game have merit, to be clear. Brown needs to take a pretty significant leap as a ballhandler if the Celtics ever want to win against the best defenses. Tatum's inconsistency became glaring this postseason. Both waxed and waned on defense over the course of the playoffs. This is not long defense of the two, declaring them to be the perfect duo nor the Celtics a perfect roster not in need of any change.
But they are not getting split up under any circumstances this summer. In case you couldn't tell, I personally believe in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. They are championship-caliber talents, elite wings in a league where it's nearly impossible to win without elite wings (even if they are not championship-caliber players right now). I, too, acknowledge I could be wrong. Sometimes teams need a shakeup if things don't go right for a while. The Celtics could get there. The JT and JB era could run its course without a banner.
But for right now-- for this summer, for next year-- Tatum and Brown will be together. What's more, they have proven they are winners. Asking if they can work together is a tired discussion right now. So let's just not ask.