First, it was Phoenix and Miami. Now the Celtics and Sixers have reportedly emerged as frontrunners in the ongoing Kevin Durant sweepstakes. Of the two, the Celtics may have the most to offer with Jaylen Brown, Boston’s leading scorer throughout the NBA Finals (23.5 points per game), seen as their strongest trade chip. Behind the scenes, the sides have been feeling each other out for the better part of a month, negotiating in circles with precious little to show for their weeks of haggling.
So where does that leave us? Deadlines tend to spur action and while all involved would prefer a speedy resolution, there’s no urgency to get a deal done now, next week or even next month with the regular season still off in the distance. What’s become clear is the Celtics aren’t willing to part with All-Star Jayson Tatum and are similarly reluctant to move Marcus Smart, the latter valued for his intangibles as a locker-room leader and veteran mentor. Kurt Helin of NBC Sports also hears Robert Williams is off limits, considered a deal-breaker in any potential swap for Durant.
Williams, better known to fans as “Time Lord,” is coming off a breakout season, where he emerged as the Celtics’ defensive centerpiece, ranking second to only Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson in blocks per game (2.2). The 24-year-old looked noticeably hobbled throughout the playoffs, suggesting the Celtics may have brought him back too soon from a meniscus injury. However, Williams’ ceiling is something approximating Clippers Era DeAndre Jordan, a high-flying big with unparalleled defensive instincts.
Durant seems bullish on playing for Boston, which is half the battle. Even so, the Celtics would be wise to tread lightly in their pursuit of Durant, risking a mutiny if Brown plots his own revenge stunt as payback for being dangled as trade bait.