Kyrie Irving trade should serve as cautionary tale for Celtics pursuit of James Harden



Is James Harden a very talented NBA player? Absolutely. Would he help the Celtics if hypothetically they could add him without giving up anything in return? Of course. But there are contracts and a salary cap in the NBA, so you wouldn't be getting James Harden for nothing. For the Celtics to acquire Harden multiple good players would have to be on the way out. And while his talent is undeniable, the Celtics trade for Kyrie Irving three years ago should serve as a cautionary tale. If not for Trader Danny, then it should be for Celtics ownership.

Danny Ainge made a tremendous trade when he shipped Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets for a collection of 1st rounders. While not all of the picks ended up winners (ie. James Young), Ainge hit on Jaylen Brown in 2016 and again on Jayson Tatum in 2017.  No one could have predicted that Markelle Fultz would turn into the Chuck Knoblauch of the NBA and come down with a mental block which capped his ceiling as a player, since being able to shoot is pretty frickin important in the NBA. But regardless, Ainge went against the grain and thought that Jayson Tatum would be the better pick and he deserves credit for that as well.  Add in another 1st rounder acquired in that trade with Philly and Ainge was using this Nets trade to completely rebuild his team. In the meantime Ainge signed veterans like Al Horford and Gordon Hayward, so that the Celtics young players wouldn't grow up in a losing culture like the tanking 76ers were. 

Many of the same reporters who think it's a no brainer for the Celtics to trade Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart to the Rockets for James Harden are the same people who were pissed at the Celtics for not trading a Nets pick for Al Horford at the 2016 NBA trade deadline. Imagine if we had traded Jaylen or Tatum for Horford instead of just signing him outright?

The key when rebuilding is to use your cap space to add more experienced players. Not to use your potential young stars. During August of 2017 is when Ainge made his first real mistake of the rebuild. He didn't trade the 2016 Nets pick and it hit at #3 and he drafted Jaylen. He didn't trade the 2017 Nets pick and it landed at #1 and the Celtics ended up with Jasyson Tatum (and an additional 1st). But then he traded the 2018 Nets pick to accelerate the rebuild for All-NBA talent Kyrie Irving. 

The first red flag with Irving should have been that he didn't get along with LeBron James. I mean this is a Celtics site, so I enjoy going after James as much as the next Celtics fan, but players like playing with him. Irving was the outlier.

trading for Irving messed up the rebuild. Irving didn't want to play with young budding stars. He wanted to play with veterans and young players who "knew their place" for lack of a better term. Jaylen and Jayson would never thrive with Irving. Also the Irving trade meant that the big free agent signing Gordon Hayward now was being asked to lessen his role before he even had his Celtics introductory press conference.

But the worst part about the Irving trade is that Ainge finally listened to the peanut gallery and traded a Nets pick for a veteran ruining the chance to acquire a third young cost controlled star. That last Nets pick luckily didn't move up in the lottery like the two prior years. If it had, that would have meant the Celtics had traded the pick that would have been able to be used to draft Luka Doncic (who went 3rd). 

But no one can predict the luck of the lottery. It's literally called "luck" for a reason. The Celtics got lucky in 2016 and 2017 with Nets picks. The Cavs didn't in 2018 as the pick stayed at #8. At that spot in the draft the Cavs passed on Michael Porter Jr. and Shae Gilgeous-Alexander to select Collin Sexton. 

Imagine a cost controlled young, budding star like Porter Jr. or Gilgeous-Alexander on this young Celtics team next to the Jay's? You can't tell me the Celtics don't get by the Heat last postseason with either of them also on the team. And I believe we would have defeated the Lakers too. Not because either player is amazing (yet), it's because we were extremely close to a championship last season, but we just needed one more good player. Even after losing Gordon Hayward for nothing, the Celtics are still about one piece away from winning a championship. By one piece away, I don't mean adding one piece at the expense of trading a couple others. This talk of Jaylen Brown AND Marcus Smart AND multiple 1st round picks for a 31 year old disgruntled star (on one side of the ball) in James Harden is nuts. The Celtics already messed up in trading one Nets' lottery pick for Irivng. Why double down and give up another Nets pick who we already know is an All-Star caliber young player in Jaylen Brown?

I trust Mike Gorman and he DID NOT like the Kyrie Irving experience in Boston. He along with almost every other viewer mentioned how unenjoyable the 2018-19 Celtics were and how on the flip side how much fun the 2019-20 version was. So we want to go back to 2018, but with a considerably older and expensive vet star in James Harden running the joint? Oh yeah and at least that team had young guys like Tatum, Brown, and Smart. The Harden era Celtics would just have Tatum.

Look this is not an Al Jefferson for KG trade. Harden is no KG. Not even close. KG was a defensive beast who made everyone else play harder on D. Garnett was an extremely unselfish star who complimented high scorers. Has Harden ever been called "extremely unselfish? Look, if the Celtics are just pretending to be interested in Harden to get the Nets or Philly to overpay for him then cool. Send me a DM, Danny, Wyc, or whomever and I can keep quiet and be in on that secret. But Celtics fans who enjoy liking the players on their team don't want James Harden. If we are going to trade Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart it better be for someone better and younger than James Harden. And that's not even counting the likability part. 

The Celtics made a tremendous trade with the Nets. The reward lessoned some when the last lottery pick was dealt away. It would lesson a great deal more if Jaylen was also traded away. What's next, Jayson Tatum for Paul George? Trying to expedite things was a mistake in 2017 and set the team back. Please don't repeat the same mistake.
tommy

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