The Boston Celtics are struggling almost as badly as the Portland Trail Blazers
Boston came into the season, like Portland, with twin superstars and championship dreams — if not championship expectations. But like with McCollum and Lillard, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum’s overlapping skill sets are proving to be as much of a hindrance as a blessing.
Celtics GM Brad Stevens would do well to learn from Portland’s folly in keeping Lillard and McCollum together too long. After four seasons as teammates, it’s clear they don’t complement each other as well as Boston’s front office would like, and it’s probably time for both teams to split up their star pairings.
Boston needs 3-point shooting more than anything else, and both McCollum and Covington would help immensely in that regard. Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Dennis Schroder can more than mask McCollum’s defensive shortcomings, and Nurkic would give the Celtics the pick-and-roll partner that could make Tatum even more effective as an all-over-the-court scorer.
Portland gets the wing defender they need perhaps more than anything else, and a genuine young superstar to help usher Lillard through the later stages of his career. Horford could plug the hole left in the middle of the Blazers’ lineup by Covington and Nurkic, but his $26.5 million salary for next year would certainly hobble Portland’s ability to make off-season moves — they would have $115 million tied up in Horford, Lillard, Norman Powell, and Brown for next season.
However, a team anchored by those four would quickly become a popular destination for ring-hungry veterans willing to sign for mid-level exceptions or the veteran minimum. And having Brown and Lillard on the court together would definitely regenerate some of the NBA championship fever in Portland that has recently been eclipsed by the Omicron variant of COVID.