The Celtics are at a crossroads after that disastrous end to a confounding season. Going into the year, just about everyone had the C’s pegged to win 60+ games and take Golden State to 6 games if not outright win the title. It all made sense too. Boston went to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last year without Gordon Hayward and without Kyrie Irving. Plus they match up with Golden State better than any other team in the NBA. It seemed like a virtual lock for the C’s to make the Finals, or at the very least the ECF. Welp, the team came out of the gates slow, publicly bitched and moaned about each other, and never got on track en route to finishing as the No. 4 seed. That was all before sweeping a Victor Oladipo-less Pacers and ultimately getting their skulls caved in by Giannis and the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks.
NOW, this brings me to my main point. Kyrie Irving has been a pain in the ass all year long, from the bizarre flat earth trolling, to saying the Celtics *needed* another veteran player, to openly questioning the coach, to publicly bitching about the young guys, to calling LeBron for advice, and now infamously punting on the regular season while looking ahead to the playoffs. As we all know, Kyrie had an excellent Game 1 (12/21 – 26 pts) before having all-time shit bombs of games the rest of the series. He statistically got worse as the series went on going 4/18 – 9 pts in Game 2, 8/22 – 29 pts in Game 3, 7/22 – 23 pts in Game 4, and 6/21 – 15 PTS in Game 5.
That all brings up the question of will Kyrie re-sign with the Celtics this summer? It also brings up the question I never imagined I would ask; do the Celtics even want to re-sign Kyrie Irving?
The Celtics are now the third favorite according to Las Vegas in terms of where Kyrie ends up this summer, behind the Nets and the Knicks. So it would seem like the Celtics have two options if they do indeed want Kyrie back. They can offer him the max and hope he wants to build a legacy in Boston (as his motherfucking Nike commercial would make it seem)
and then trade anyone on the roster not named Hayward (Horford’s probably gone due to matching salaries) for Anthony Davis. Thats not *as* risky as it sounds because at least it would be a plan that only goes into action after Kyrie re-signs. But you’re still trading half your team including Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for a one year run at it with Kyrie and Davis and hoping Davis then re-ups. After this year I’m not so sure I want to bank on a guy enjoying his time in Boston enough to sign a max deal.
The other option is to do what the Warriors did in 2014 with Klay Thompson. Play it out. The Warriors were reportedly on the brink of trading Thompson for Kevin love to “put them over the top” before they evolved into the dynasty they are today. The Warriors had gone from a disaster of a team to a pretty good squad with a new coach in Steve Kerr, yet one that still felt a player or two away. Luckily Kerr, and most importantly, Jerry West advised the Golden State GM of nixing the deal and the Warriors promptly turned into an all-time team led by Steph Curry and an even better Klay Thompson.
I bring this scenario up because I see a ton of similarities between 2014 Klay Thompson and 2019 Jayson Tatum. Thompson had just finished up his third season in 2013-14; Tatum just finished his second. Klay was a key piece in a potential trade for an “established all-star big man” as Tatum is now. Not to mention the numbers. Take a look at Klay’s first 2 years compared to Tatum’s.
People sleep on Klay Thompson because he’s not the star of the show in Golden State, but theres a reason the best basketball team of my generation is going to offer him a max (if not super max) contract at 12:01 am on July 1st.
The Ringer also asked the same question in their Celtics post-mortem last night:
“Irving may stay, Irving may go, but the referendum on Tatum’s career is coming no matter what. A year ago, the then-rookie looked like an MVP candidate-to-be, but a season of floating around on offense, settling for midrange jumpers, and getting IRL subtweeted has sent many a Tatum stan retreating into the bushes. It’s worth noting that Tatum actually improved in his sophomore season—virtually all of his raw totals are up, and while his scoring efficiency is down, expecting Steph Curry–level shooting from 3 again, even on low volume, was a bit ambitious. Punctuating any Tatum commentary, good or bad, with his age has become the internet’s favorite gag for two years running, but here’s the thing: He’s only 21—and was only 20 for most of this season. Only five players 20 or younger averaged 15 points or more this season, and Tatum had the highest effective field goal rating of anyone of them who didn’t always shoot right at the basket. Tatum hasn’t been great, but it’s worth remembering that it took Brandon Ingram only a couple of games this spring to regain traction before a fluke blood clot issue derailed the rest of his season.”
Now Tatum may have not been the 20 ppg guy everyone expected him to be in Year 2, but that may not be fair just because he dominated in the playoffs the year before. Not to mention he had to adjust to playing with guys like Hayward and Kyrie. Would the Celtics be better off letting Kyrie walk and giving Tatum more time and space to grow into the player we all think he could be?