- Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) is a senior writer for ESPN Digital and Print.
The Boston Celtics have been down this road before with Jaylen Brown, most tellingly after the 2018 playoffs — when Brown could have been the centerpiece in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard.
The Celtics were coming off a run to Game 7 of the conference finals. Four of their top six in postseason minutes were 23 or younger: Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier. Two prime-aged stars — Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward — were set to return from injury the next season.
The Celtics decided they were good enough that they didn’t need to compromise their future to boost their present with Leonard.
But the exuberance about Boston’s young core coming within one win of the Finals blurred analysis of its broader postseason run. A lot of us zoomed past Boston coming within one loss of bowing out in the first round to an untested Milwaukee Bucks team. In between, the Celtics upended the young Philadelphia 76ers in a five-game win more ragged than convincing.
We know what happened next: The 2019 Celtics imploded, Irving and Hayward left, and the Lakers beat out Boston for Anthony Davis. Suddenly, the notion that Boston had been set up to contend for a decade seemed quaint. A decade? Ha. Next season is promised to no one.
Three years later, the Celtics have reached out about Kevin Durant, according to initial reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Brown would be the obvious centerpiece in any such trade.
These Celtics came within two games of the championship — three wins and one round further than in 2018. They appeared to solve whatever chemistry problems they had early last season. They loaded up on depth, playmaking, and shooting with Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari. They might be the championship favorite now. Why should a team so good trade a 25-year-old All-Star for a 33-year-old megastar who has played 90 games in three seasons and seems to grow unhappy, fast, wherever he goes?
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