Team #1: Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics are the only team on this list with a winning record besides the Knicks but their 5-3 start comes with a caveat. The Celtics have won two of their games on last-second shots.
While late-game heroics make for engaging television, it’s the last way a team wants to win. The Celtics were very close to being 3-5 and in a far improved Eastern Conference, the team looks unlikely to reach the Conference Finals anytime soon.
Jason Tatum is a budding superstar and Jaylen Brown has started the season red-hot but without Kemba Walker, the team looks out of sorts. The Celtics have been on the cusp of the finals for the past four seasons but have truly lacked a second superstar to help guide them there.
A combination of Jayson Tatum and James Harden would be on par with the two Los Angeles duos of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and LeBron James and Anthony Davis. To make a deal work with the Rockets they’d likely have to part with Jaylen Brown but he’s not anywhere close to the player that Harden is.
What the Celtics lack is a true playmaker on the offensive side of the ball. Part of that is their offensive system but the trio of Brown, Tatum, and Walker forms a group of low-turnover finishers.
Harden is one of the best finishers and playmakers in the sport and he’d provide an additional element to their offensive sets. The Celtics need to get better or risk seeing Tatum demand a move to a franchise that is more interested in winning titles than acquiring future value.
The Celtics have been shrewd about acquiring picks and having lots of talent on rookie contracts. However, future value is best used when it’s cashed in for present value.
The Celtics are sitting on a bunch of hypothetical value right now, which is great from a financial standpoint but it doesn’t do anything on the court. The Celtics could throw a ton of picks, players, and pick swaps the Rockets way to land a franchise-altering talent.
A move for Harden would represent a departure from the franchise’s recent ethos but it should surprise no one the last title the Celtics won was when they were aggressive with their assets to bring in real NBA talent. Going titleless over the next decade won’t keep Tatum around, just ask the Rockets how that turned out with James Harden.