Boston Celtics: Why does Danny Ainge keep making dumb decisions?
It was seen as the beginning of something special for the Boston Celtics last year. Celtics general manager, Danny Ainge finally made the right moves that pushed the team to the brink of the NBA Finals and may have made it, if not for the injury to Isaiah Thomas. But this is why the games are played. Some moves work, and others will come back to haunt you later on.
This offseason, Ainge pulled off two stunners when he managed to haul in Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz and the trade for Kyrie Irving. Hayward is a silent assassin with 2016 averages of 22 points, five rebounds, and four assists and Irving is fresh off three straight trips to the NBA Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Pairing Hayward with Irving and Al Horford may seem like a smart move on the chalkboard but on the floor and bank account-wise, there may be issues.
The Celtics paid Hayward a king’s ransom with a four-year, $127 million deal. In doing so, Ainge had to search for trade partners to trim some salary off his cap. This is common but it shows how Ainge may have made a huge mistake in the process.
The Celtics finished the 2016 season with 53 wins (good for 1st in the Eastern Conference). To make their position more interesting is the fact that Ainge had the No. 1 pick at his disposal in the NBA Draft. But then it all came crashing down. Gone was the promise of a dynasty and replaced with a “Win Now” attitude.
The 76ers traded the No. 3 pick and two more to the Celtics for their No. 1. While it seems the Celtics came out on top it’s now proof that may not be true. The 76ers walked away with Markelle Fultz and the Celtics took Jayson Tatum. What the Celtics should have done was find a way for the 76ers to throw in Jahlil Okafor. The Celtics biggest need entering the offseason was a power forward. Okafor would’ve been a great addition to a front line of Horford and Jae Crowder.
After that move, the Celtics were too loaded. IT lost his backcourt mate in Avery Bradley, then the Celtics lost Thomas. Irving is a nice catch with his dribble penetration and poise in big games but losing Crowder and the Nets 2018 pick will be too much to overcome. Horford is not the best post defender and neither is Hayward. The Celtics decided to try the Warriors approach but Ainge forgot how good the Warriors are on both ends of the court.
When you have the Eastern Conference in the palm of your hands for what looks to be a few years, you do not take your foot off the gas. This is exactly what Ainge did this offseason. He went and spent money on players he did not need. All he had to do was go out and get a defensive presence like Nerlens Noel to pair with Horford and the Celtics would have found themselves in the NBA Finals come June. It’s as simple as that.
Irving wanted out of Cleveland and all the Cavs were waiting for was a team dumb enough to pay up. The Celtics did more than that. When was the last time Irving was mentioned as an MVP candidate? Ainge gave up his leader for a player who just quit on his previous team. How does that make any sense? Maybe money was the issue as Thomas was set to become a free agent next season but what happens when Irving’s deal is up and he wants to be maxed out?
If that wasn’t enough, Ainge decided to throw in the Nets 2018 (unprotected) pick as part of the deal. Why? Why would Ainge give the Cavaliers one of the top players at the position, a great defender in Crowder and then give them what could possibly be the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft? Makes no sense but this is the kind of moves that Ainge has been pulling off lately.
I’m not saying the Celtics won’t win 45+ games this season but they’re throwing a lot of trust into Kyrie who has played more than 70 games just three times in his six-year career. He’s not as injury-prone as some other players but there will come a point in the season when Irving will be in street clothes.
The Celtics were built to win now. They won the East due to chemistry and Ainge decided to throw it all away to build an East Coast version of the Warriors. But here’s the thing; Irving is not Curry, Hayward is not Klay, Brown is not Durant and Horford is far from Green. The Celtics will be strong in the East but not strong enough to overtake the Cavs who they just made that much better with this trade.