Ingredients of a Legend: Danny Ainge Edition


Ingredients of a Legend: Danny Ainge – Guts

Rarely do you see top-tier conference rivals make an off-season blockbuster trade after they just met in the Conference Finals months earlier. However, every once in awhile it happens – creating a fan and media frenzy. Earlier this week, the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers turned the NBA into a full-blown craze when they pulled off a monumental trade that saw Kyrie Irving head to Boston and Isaiah Thomas head to Cleveland.

In the aftermath, much has been written, talked about and theorized about this trade. Which team won? Who’s a better team now? Who’s improved in the long-run? Was it worth it (for either team)?

Lots of those questions will take time to answer. What is known now though is that Boston GM Danny Ainge has guts. After losing to the Cavs in the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, Ainge talked about having a good team but not a great team and alluding to changes that would need to come. What better way to do that than to go after an all-star player on the very team that you lost to.

Obviously, you have to give something to get something. Ainge has been collecting and hoarding assets for years (in the form of draft picks, prospects and players he has gained through trades). He used a number of these pieces to land Irving. He took some heat from both media and fans for all the pieces that he gave up in the trade. On top of that, the fact that he held onto those assets for so long and did a diligent job of collecting them over the years, meant that the expected return for them (from both media and fans) was big. But you can’t hang on to assets forever and you can’t keep building for the future – so Ainge went for it and got the player he wanted. Time will tell who won the trade, but it took guts for Ainge to finally go for it.

This isn’t the first time Danny Ainge has made a big trade. Blockbuster deals are somewhat commonplace for him – here’s a highlight of some of Ainge’s trade history:

  • Throughout 2003 (his first year in charge of the Celtics) Ainge traded Antoine Walker, Tony Delk, Tony Battie, Eric Williams, and Kedrick Brown – earning him the name “Trader Dan”
  • In June of 2006, the Celtics traded a 2007 1st round draft pick to the Phoenix Suns for Brian Grant and Rajon Rondo
  • In June of 2007, the Celtics traded Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and a 2008 2nd round pick to the Seattle SuperSonics for Ray Allen and Glen Davis
  • In July of 2007, the Celtics traded Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, a 2009 1st round draft pick and a 2009 1st round draft pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett

Allen and Garnett formed the Celtics’ “Big 3” with Paul Pierce. They went on be a force in the NBA for years and won a Championship in 2008.

  • In July of 2013, the Celtics traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, D.J. White, a 2017 1st round draft pick and a 2017 2nd round draft pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, a 2014 1st round draft pick, a 2016 1st round draft pick, a 2017 1st round draft pick (the #1 overall pick, which the Celtics traded to the 76ers for the #3 overall pick in 2017 and a 2018 1st round pick) and a 2018 1st round draft pick

This is regarded as one of the most lop-sided trades in NBA history. Lots of people would have viewed dismantling the Big 3 as a step in the wrong direction – but what Ainge was able to get in return for 2 aging veterans makes the bold move more than worth it.

  • In December of 2014, the Celtics traded Dwight Powell and Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks for Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson, Brandan Wright, a 2016 1st round draft pick and a 2016 2nd round draft pick (Boston also receives $13M trade exception)
  • In February of 2015, as part of a 3-team trade, the Boston Celtics traded Marcus Thornton and a 2016 1st round draft pick to the Phoenix Suns; the Boston Celtics traded Tayshaun Prince to the Detroit Pistons; the Detroit Pistons traded Gigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko to the Boston Celtics; and the Phoenix Suns traded Isaiah Thomas to the Boston Celtics

Some of the pieces he gained above, he used in the Irving trade. What’s Danny Ainge’s next big move? Time will tell. But it takes guts to build a championship calibre team – whether it be playcalling, bold strategy, big trades or timely coaching changes. Danny Ainge has guts and for that, we salute him.

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