Ainge is still calling around, searching for that blockbuster (not the video store)
The Celtics sit at a respectable, somewhat underwhelming, 10-7 to start the season. That's good for a tie for 4th in the Eastern conference with Charlotte, and 4 games behind the conference leading, and defending champion, Cleveland Cavaliers. Although some, myself included, would point to the fact that Boston has only played 4 games with a full lineup of their core players as a major contributing factor for the slowish start. Even if the C's look much better at full strength than not, they aren't hanging banner 18 with this team as it's constructed now. Danny Ainge knows this, and is still on the hunt for the deal(s) that are going to put this team over the top.
According to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, Ainge certainly isn't waiting around for such a deal to fall into his lap. He is actively engaged with GM's and team officials around the league in search of bringing another star to Boston. Here's what Bulpett himself said about his conversations with team insiders around the NBA:
"From all indications speaking to team sources around the league, Danny Ainge is still after the major trades the C’s president of basketball operations knows are needed. And no doubt he’s loving each story calling the 2017 draft one of the deepest and most talent-laden in many years, understanding that such talk could raise the value of the Nets’ pick that can be theirs."
That 2017 Net's pick that Boston has the right to swap their 1st-rounder for is looking more and more valuable. That's partly because this years draft class looks terrific, but also because Brooklyn is rounding into form dropping 7 in a row as of this writing. It'll have a great chance to be a top selection this year, and there's gonna be some serious talent up there. See: Fultz, Markelle:
Markelle Fultz. Génie. pic.twitter.com/VhHvMG19n9— . (@falckovitch93) November 18, 2016
In recent years, Ainge has used the draft to acquire what he believed to be the best player available when it was his turn to make selection. That was regardless of position and what the team actually needed to improve. The thinking here was to get the best asset that would be the most intriguing to other teams around the league. Package your young, unproven players with high ceilings for a star...yada, yada, yada, you all know that operation. It's worked for him before, but he shifted gears a bit this past year though.
When he couldn't make a deal before the C's 1st selection in the 2016 NBA Draft - 3rd overall - instead of taking the player who everybody thought had the most value around the NBA, Kris Dunn of Providence, he took a player who he perhaps had ranked higher than just about anyone else in Jaylen Brown. Then, knowing he'd never be able to keep all of those draft picks stateside, he decided to go ahead and take guys he could stash overseas with his next two picks, Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic respectively. I'm sure Ainge's preference was to make a trade this past offseason, but perhaps his patience will pay off.
Spurs coach Greg Popovich spoke the other day about how they were able to acquire their young MVP candidate. Kawhi Leonard was the 15th pick in the 2011 draft by Indiana, and San Antonio was able to trade for him that very night - but he came at a hefty price. They had to give up George Hill, who was a integral part of that Spurs team. Via Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald:
“We’d be exaggerating if we said we knew what he was going to be,” said Popovich of Leonard, who has blossomed into a legitimate MVP candidate. “Kind of like Manu (Ginobili). We didn’t know Manu was going to be Manu or Tony (Parker) Tony. It just worked out for us. But we needed size when we made that trade, because it didn’t make sense to have Tony, George Hill and Manu Ginobili out there. It’s just too small. So we were looking for size."
Popovich also spoke about how tough it was to part with Hill personally, one of his favorite players:
“George Hill was one of my favorite players all-time. We’re still involved together in some charity stuff, off-court activities, so it was real difficult. But Kawhi had such size, and we thought he had the foot speed to move from an inside player to the 3 position, so we decided to roll the bones.”
Moral of the story - if we're going to make deal for a superstar(s), not only is it going to take one of (probably-definitely both) of our upcoming picks with Brooklyn to land one, we're certainly going to lose some key players that we love already as well. Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart are the kind of names that would be going in any kind of deal for a player that will make the kind of impact we need *cough* DeMarcus Cousins.
However, Ainge has set himself up to go the other route if it comes to it. He could make a smaller deal between now and the trade deadline, grab a rebounder/ rim-protector that isn't a megastar - maybe someone like a Nerlens Noel or a Andrew Bogut - and hang on to this upcoming Brooklyn pick if he is so inclined. This would still keep the C's pretty flexible cap-wise, heading into the offseason with a solid roster and two potential young stars in Jaylen Brown and whoever they would get with the Brooklyn pick this year. I'm talking myself into it!
Danny has some tough decisions to make this season. By all accounts he's still lurking around the league in search of a deal. Let's hope Trader Danny has another blockbuster in him, we all know that's what he's looking for.
Realated: A look at recent trade rumors, & how they stack up with Boston's plans
Photo Credit - Matthew Lee/Boston Globe
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