If Boston re-signs Kyrie Irving to a long-term deal, is it worth it to wait a year for Anthony Davis rather than forfeit Tatum?
Another failed season with Kyrie Irving is in the books, and it may have been his last dance in Beantown. The dribbling maestro can opt to test the waters of free agency this summer and spurn the Celtics, who have not been able to get to the Conference Finals with Irving at the helm.
Now, it’s hard to fault of the former Duke Blue Devil, who has delivered 23+ points per game over the last two seasons, to lead the C’s into the playoffs. He’s been spectacular in the few seasons he’s spent in Boston, but the numbers just haven’t correlated into playoff success.
The acquisition of Gordon Hayward and draft selections, including budding star Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, to go along with veteran big-man Al Horford, were supposed to set Boston up for sustained success for the better part of the next decade.
However, nothing has clicked once the calendar turns to May for Boston, as Irving and company have had trouble finishing business. After dispatching Milwaukee and Philadelphia, they ran into the LeBron James-led Cavaliers, who sent them packing last season. This year, they ran through a Victor Oladipo-less Pacers team, only to get smacked by Milwaukee in the second round.
Rumblings of Irving’s future lying outside of Boston grow stronger day-by-day. In order to get to the next level, the Celtics must first find out a way to keep Kyrie Irving in town, starting with a contract offer that he cannot refuse.
The second part of the equation depends on the future of Anthony Davis, who has made his desire to leave the New Orleans Pelicans known. Boston has long been linked to him, though the Rose Rule prevented him and Irving from being on the same team. With Irving’s contract up, however, that rule is no longer an obstacle.
With that in mind, the overarching question that Boston must answer is whether or not to mortgage their young talent for Davis before the deadline next season or wait out his impending free agency next summer.
The answer to that question lies with evaluating Tatum’s importance to the franchise. Trading Tatum compromises the long-term success of the franchise, as he hasn’t even hit his peak and turned 21 years old in March. Some could say he’s even more valuable than Davis, as AD is five years older than Tatum, has an extensive injury history, and will cost mountains more than Tatum.
Without Tatum, this franchise won’t have a future beyond whatever short-term deals Irving, and maybe Davis, would sign. Tatum is the most important cog in Boston’s future because he is under team control for awhile and has father time on his side.
The answer, then, is to wait for Davis to make his pick in free agency. Irving may not even re-sign with Boston this summer, so selling the farm for Davis without the guard play is pointless.
The Celtics must first put pen to paper with Uncle Drew and then count down until Davis hits the open market next summer. That is the only way Kyrie Irving, Tatum and Davis can all wear the same uniform in the near future.
With that being said, the Celtics will likely have to accept their stature in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, beneath the likes of Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Indiana, with the return of Victor Oladipo expected to invigorate a team that made the playoffs likely without him. Kawhi Leonard is a free agent, so lets put the Raptors on pause for a second.
Boston is still a very good team, but this core has proven that they cannot get the job done without a third star to push them over the top. Davis can be that guy but trading for him would cost Tatum and then some, a price Boston can avoid paying if they’d wait a year.
If the Pelicans panic and trade him at the deadline, that won’t change a thing, as he’ll still hit the open market after that half-season. Then, they’ll have to court Davis in free agency and outbid the other suitors, as he likely will ignore the supermax from New Orleans. Danny Ainge better have some deep pockets, as they’ll be tested next summer.