The door has just slammed shut on the 2017 NBA Trade Deadline and the Boston Celtics, with their array of assets and conversations with the biggest players at the deadline had options but in the end, Danny Ainge pulled their chips back, and it was the right call.
The players who were in the conversation all week, and most of the year, were Boogie Cousins, Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Andre Drummond. Boogie was off the table early with his shock trade to the Pelicans for Buddy Hield, and as the week has gone on murmurings regarding the attitude of Butler has reverberated around the internet and in basketball circles. Drummond never looked like a viable option for Boston, and it was left to Ainge and Bird to try and close a deal for Paul George.
Paul George, the 4x all star is having a career year, with a PER of 18.6, 22.3 points per game and his highest ever effective field goal percentage up at .512 has all the elements to help the Celtics turn the corner and challenge Cleveland at the top of the pile in the East. But for Ainge, the cost was too great. Reports from NBA insiders were that it would cost the Celtics both Brooklyn picks, one of which could very well be the number 1 overall in this year’s stacked draft, and 3 of Crowder, Bradley, Smart or Brown.
The question that Ainge will have asked himself is, what is the use of a player on an expiring contract if you don’t have the players to compliment him. Especially given the fantastic team friendly contracts the 4 Celtics players are on, and that many consider Brown to be a potential franchise player. The Celtics would have gutted their roster (2nd best in the East, just 3 games back of Cleveland) giving up at least 2 excellent and gritty defenders in the process.
The price was too high for Ainge, and in the coming weeks, it will become clearer to the currently seething Celtics fans. Ainge is not risk averse, see the trades for Crowder and Thomas. See the hiring of Brad Stevens. See THE TRADE, the single best bit of business by an NBA front office in decades. Ainge knows the worth of his roster, even with the expiring’s of Johnson and Jerebko (a handy playoff competitor, who adds grit and energy off the bench) he felt there was no value. The Celtics are in
The Celtics are in year 4 of their process that started with blowing up the house in the Brooklyn trade (except for the front room in Rondo) and hopes are it will end with the raising of banner 18 in the Garden. Is this the year? They have a shot. With George, their championship window shrinks by years but their chance for success in 2017 may have grown.
Celtics fans and media need to be realistic about the lineups put out if the George trade went through. Is a 5 of Thomas, George, Smart, Johnson and Horford an NBA Champion with the likes of Olynyk, Zeller, Green, Rozier and the one not taken by the Pacers. The Celtics have a shot in the draft to get a top prospect, maybe the first overall pick. The Celtics have drafted well in recent years, but haven’t offered an extension since Rondo. This is telling in that they haven’t drafted a franchise player in a long while. However, they still have a lot of cards to play in the summer be it trade or draft, even without the expiring contracts. And there is a lot of basketball to play between now and then.
Ainge believes in his roster, the talismanic leader in Thomas and the genius Brad Stevens. Some Celtics fans are worried about rivals strengthening. Toronto, in particular, did good business dumping Sullinger and gaining Ibaka and P.J. Tucker to help them down the stretch. Let’s not forget however that they had slumped to 5th in the East before the All-Star Break and are currently 4 games back of Boston.
Ainge believed the value wasn’t there and the roster he has crafted over the years is good enough to meet his short to medium term goals. Reach the second round, and with luck (and the Celtics have been down on luck in their last 2 playoff appearances) maybe the conference finals. The Celtics are in prime position to get a high seed in the playoffs, and as the Cavs are running LeBron into the ground with a thin squad, anything is possible.
Danny Ainge made the right call in not pulling the trigger on a trade. For reasons of floor chemistry, locker room makeup and being unwilling to break up the foundation of his roster he has kept a winning team in position to challenge for years to come. As the old saying goes, sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.