The 2022-23 iteration of the Boston Celtics, from top to bottom, is one of the most talented teams in the league on paper. At first glance, it seems like the team has everything it needs to contend: a bonafide top-10 player on the wing in Jayson Tatum, an elite secondary option in Jaylen Brown, versatile and smart 3 and D players such as Derrick White, Al Horford, and Marcus Smart, an elite rim protector in Robert Williams III, and a microwave scoring option off the bench in Malcolm Brogdon.

However, through the four seasons in which Tatum and Brown have been the Celtics' best players, they simply couldn't quite get over the hump. They came oh-so-close in 2022, only falling short in the end due to Stephen Curry's greatness, but here they are in 2023, having blown the opportunity to avenge their NBA Finals loss last year — with Brown playing a huge part in squandering that chance.

Jaylen Brown, in light of Jayson Tatum's untimely ankle injury, failed to take the Celtics across the Eastern Conference Finals finish line; on top of going 8-23 from the field, he turned the ball over eight times. Brown's shoddy ballhandling was exposed at exactly the most inopportune moment for the Celtics — and now, with Brown's contract set to expire in 2024, questions abound regarding the 26-year old forward's future with the team.

In fact, some think it's time for the Celtics to veer towards another direction and pair Tatum with another star who could do a better job of picking up the slack when he's not at his best. But some players are much better fits alongside Tatum than others.

With that said, these are the five superstars the Celtics must target to pair with Jayson Tatum, ranked in terms of potential impact.

5. Bradley Beal

There was once a time where Bradley Beal looked like he was in a rapid ascent towards the NBA stratosphere following John Wall's injury. Beal emerged as a legitimate 30-point per night scorer, and his entire offensive arsenal was in full display every game. He no longer was the catch-and-shoot, roving marksman on the perimeter that he began his career as.

However, Beal has had to endure a plethora of injury woes since 2019. He missed 74 games over the past two seasons alone, and despite the uptick in shooting efficiency this past season, the downward trend in the volume of his production isn't necessarily a promising development.

Sure, Bradley Beal is good pals with fellow St. Louis native Jayson Tatum. Perhaps reuniting with his childhood friend would do wonders for Beal's career. However, will the efficiency and ballhandling upgrade from acquiring Beal be worth the cost of relinquishing Brown's rim pressure, athleticism, defense, and rebounding?

4. Trae Young

If ranked according to plausibility, Trae Young would rank first. After all, the Atlanta Hawks are heavily rumored to be in pursuit of Jaylen Brown, and given the season Brown just had, Game 7 stinker against the Miami Heat notwithstanding, the Celtics will only be listening to trade overtures if they start with Young's involvement.

Acquiring Young would do wonders for Jayson Tatum. Tatum would need not burden himself with too much playmaking responsibility with Young alongside him. Moreover, Young's offensive craftiness and infinite range would add a new wrinkle to the Celtics' offense, especially when it comes up against the most stifling defenses in the NBA.

However, the Celtics know Trae Young's lack of defensive impact all too well. In fact, during the Celtics and Hawks' first-round matchup, they targeted Young relentlessly on that end of the floor. Sure, Young will have the likes of Marcus Smart, Derrick White, and Al Horford covering for him, but there's only a lot those can do to help him out defensively given how lackluster his feel and tools are.

At the end of the day, keeping Jaylen Brown certainly looks like the more appealing option given the Celtics' roster construction and basketball philosophy, even if Young is the better offensive player.

3. Ja Morant

Have the Memphis Grizzlies had enough of Ja Morant? Perhaps. Morant was on a steep upwards trajectory in his career. Watching Morant on the court is a treat; fans never know what to expect given the limitless possibilities of what the Grizzlies point guard can pull off on a nightly basis thanks to his jaw-dropping athleticism.

However, a few misguided Instagram lives here and there, and now, Morant is at a crossroads in his career — and he's only 23 years old.

Given the talent he possesses — the incredible playmaking and immense ability to get to the rim, not to mention the exuberant locker room presence that has endeared him to his Grizzlies teammates — Ja Morant will have plenty of opportunities to get his act together. The Grizzlies organization will certainly be hoping that he figures things out while donning Memphis colors.

But on the off chance that everything goes up in smoke in Memphis, can the Celtics try and facilitate a revival for the superstar floor general?

This reeks of “I can save him” behavior, which is a no-no in all strokes of life. But Morant's talent level makes him worth waiting for, risks be damned.

2. Kawhi Leonard

There might not be more high-risk, high-reward player in the association than Kawhi Leonard. When healthy, Leonard is still a top-five player in the NBA. But when has he been healthy when it mattered for the Los Angeles Clippers?

There's no way the Clippers are giving up on their franchise star a year before they move to their new stomping grounds at Intuit Dome. There are even no guarantees that the Celtics would want to acquire the Leonard given the risk involved.

Even then, if the Celtics want to shoot for the moon with one last hurrah, they'd be hard-pressed to find a better player to target who wouldn't necessarily require the Celtics to change anything they do on either end of the floor.

The only reason he's not number one on this list is that availability is one of the best abilities for an NBA superstar — and Kawhi Leonard doesn't quite have that at this point in his career.

1. Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard is already 32 years old. There's certainly injury risk when it comes to Lillard; it was only last year when he suffered a season-ending abdominal injury. And yet, here he stands as number one on the list of superstars the Celtics must target to pair with Jayson Tatum.

Lillard is almost everything a team wants in a point guard in today's NBA. He can stretch defenses past its breaking point, his three-level mastery makes him quite the pick-and-roll maestro, and his teammates look up to him due to his sheer gravitas. Even though he's getting up there in age, he still posted the best season of his career this past year, averaging 32.2 points and 7.3 assists on a career-high 64.5 True Shooting percentage.

Against the Heat, Damian Lillard's gravity would have done wonders in jolting the Celtics out of their offensive rut, especially in Game 7. Lillard certainly would have made the Heat pay for using their zone defense. And he certainly would not have turned the ball over multiple times due to a loose handle, unlike Jaylen Brown.

The only concern the Celtics might have regarding Lillard is his defense; in the wrong matchup, Lillard's 6'2 frame may be exposed. He'll be targeted in every pick-and-roll. But it's not like he's an absolute negative on that end of the floor.

Of course, the Portland Trail Blazers front office looks like it's willing to do whatever it takes to build a contending team around Lillard. Thus, trading for Lillard may be nothing but a pipe dream for the Celtics. But if ever the opportunity arises, the Celtics will have a difficult time finding someone that would up their championship equity much more considerably than Lillard.