The Boston Celtics showed up, somewhat unexpectedly, on a list Stephen A. Smith made of teams “in the mix” to land LeBron James in free agency this summer (Smith is a dingus, but he was ahead of everyone on LeBron going to Miami in 2010, so his list can’t be summarily dismissed). The Celtics weren’t the biggest surprise on the list—it includes both the Miami Heat and the Golden State Warriors, either of which would be a much more controversial landing spot, although for vastly different reasons—but they do present a unique complication, as pointed out by Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer:
Kyrie, who left Cleveland last season to strike out on his own, is the obvious complicating factor. He may not want to play with LeBron again, but his opinion doesn’t actually matter that much if Boston decides to go after James. The quartet of LeBron, Horford, Tatum, and Brown matches up well with Golden State’s four All-Stars. Kyrie, as the point guard in that starting lineup, would have an embarrassment of riches to play with. The Celtics could still use him, but they wouldn’t need him, either.
None of the suitors are perfect: the Sixers have plenty of room but present an awkward combination of talent for a ball-dominant playmaking forward whose perimeter shooting comes and goes; the Lakers are a long way from competing, as currently constructed, and would need to add at least one more marquee name this summer; the Rockets could find a way, sure, but then they’d be pairing LeBron with two of the, oh, four most ball-dominant players in the entire world; the Heat are closer to competing than the Lakers, but not by much; the Warriors would have to radically deconstruct a roster that just swept the Cavs, and almost exclusively to keep LeBron from going to Houston; and the Cavs, well, stink. Measured against those complications, the fact that Kyrie Irving would prefer to not play with the best basketball player in the world is a pretty silly, minor concern.
The neatest fit, it turns out, is the Celtics. And the thought of LeBron rampaging in a lineup with all of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford is enormously tantalizing, so much so that Kyrie’s comfort level with the whole thing should go right out the window. Nevertheless, in the spirit of fairness and generosity, here is a very good solution to Kyrie’s compatibility problem, one that satisfies all of LeBron’s desire to stay in “championship mode,” my desire to watch LeBron function at the center of Brad Stevens’s creative and relentless offense, and Kyrie’s desire to be The Man on his own team and show what he can do leading a (ahem) playoff team built around his shot-creating brilliance, per Tjarks:
[LeBron] could opt into the final year of his contract at $35.6 million, and the Celtics could trade for him with a package based around either Hayward or Irving.
There it is. The simplicity is overwhelming. The Celtics should trade Kyrie Irving back to Cleveland, in order to acquire LeBron James.
Everyone wins, here, and don’t you dare say otherwise. The Celtics would immediately leap to the very top of the non-Warriors list of title contenders; Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens would get an indestructible superhuman centerpiece to lead their young roster; and Kyrie Irving would very certainly be the best player on his very own team, with no one to force him out of his comfort zone or take the ball out of his hands, ever. Everyone wins!