How can C's reach potential with Tatum and Brown? Execs weigh in


The Boston Celtics have two of the NBA's brightest young stars who have played with several All-Stars in recent years, from Kyrie Irving to Gordon Hayward to Kemba Walker.

So, why can't the Celtics get over the hump with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown?

That's been a topic of much debate in NBA circles, especially after Boston got swept out of the first round of the playoffs last season and scuffled early in the 2021-22 campaign.

The Celtics have won eight of their last 11 to improve to 10-8 ahead of Wednesday's showdown with the Brooklyn Nets. But ESPN's Tim Bontemps spoke to multiple NBA executives who believe this team still isn't a serious contender.

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"They're stuck in neutral -- and maybe going backwards," one league executive told Bontemps.

Whether you believe that's a fair assessment or not -- Tatum and Brown are still just 23 and 25 years old, respectively -- Boston has yet to surround its young duo with a supporting cast that can reach the NBA Finals. One Eastern Conference scout believes only outside help can elevate the C's to the next level.

"They probably need another guy," the scout told Bontemps. "I love Al Horford, but he's getting older. And I love (Marcus) Smart. But once you get past Brown and Tatum -- and especially past [Horford and Smart] -- every guy is a question mark for me.


"They're down to two legitimate stars, [and] you normally need three [to win]."

Adding another "legitimate star" is easier said than done, though. Bradley Beal is an enticing target due in part to his close relationship with Tatum, but taking on his contract would require blowing up most of the roster outside Tatum and Brown.'

Another scout believes the onus lies with Tatum and Brown to get the most out of their teammates.

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"I would put it simply: Jayson and Jaylen's ability to make other players better [is crucial]," a Western Conference scout told Bontemps about the key for the Celtics to be a championship contender.

"If they can't get that third guy, they have to make other players better, and they haven't shown the ability to do that yet."

Tatum and Brown have only played nine games together this season with Brown sidelined due to a hamstring injury, so there's still time for them to prove they can thrive with this roster. If the Celtics beat the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night, they will have defeated two teams with title aspirations in less than a week after taking down the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.

So, there's no need for the C's to give up hope on the Jays just yet. But if Boston continues to hover around .500, the outside noise will persist.