By: Sam Block
On a rather quiet August day, an NBA General Manager decided to turn the NBA world upside down. Yes, you are correct, that NBA General Manager was none other than Daniel Ray Ainge. General Manager of the 17-time world champion Boston Celtics. Why trade away the beloved face of your franchise? You know, the same guy that just helped you bring in all-star Gordon Hayward. The guy that you got for Marcus Thornton and a bag of peanuts from Phoenix. The same guy that poured his heart out in this past postseason, even after the tragic death of his sister, Chyna. Why trade away THAT guy?
The answer is one many people may never know. But wait. That’s not all.
Why trade away Jae Crowder with him? The same guy that you stole from Dallas in the Rajon Rondo deal. The same guy that gives as much effort as you could possibly ask for from a player on a nightly basis. The same guy that continues to grow into one of the best two-way small forwards in the league each year. Why trade away THAT guy?
But wait…yes…there is more. Why trade away Ante Zizic? Didn’t you already give Cleveland enough? Zizic has a ton of potential, you have not even seen him play in a regular season NBA game yet! He could be the big-man, you oh so desperately need for rebounding purposes. Why trade away THAT guy?
And Danny, Danny, Danny, did you really trade the BROOKLYN pick? The same Brooklyn pick that you were grasping onto for so many years? The Brooklyn pick that could very well turn out to be a top 5 pick, possibly even the number 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft! Why trade away THAT pick? And then a second round pick also?
Well, let’s be honest here. Unless another Draymond Green drops from the sky, or you know…that Isaiah Thomas guy…2nd round picks usually don’t pan out. These are the questions you may still be dying to ask Danny Ainge. Don’t worry fans, I’ll give you some answers. I am going to tell you exactly why this was a deal that Danny Ainge had to make, if he wanted to give his team the best chance to win multiple NBA titles throughout the next decade.
First I’ll tell you this, Cleveland got a phenomenal deal. Talk about getting the job done in high pressure situations. Koby Altman did just that. You have the biggest star in the entire game and another star who no longer wants to share the spotlight with that King. What do you do? Well, you talk to Trader Danny. The way Cleveland was able to snag an all-star point guard to replace Kyrie Irving, an underrated and versatile wing to defend any position, a young center with huge upside, of course that coveted Brooklyn Nets pick, and a 2nd round pick on top of all of that, wow that was impressive. Cleveland is certainly well off. With Dwayne Wade in the fold, the Cavs are probably still the favorites in the Eastern Conference this season. However, people are overlooking this next statement. Boston won the deal also. And here’s why.
Isaiah Thomas is an absolute stud. But he is also a stud coming off a severe hip injury. He is a stud that is turning 29 in 4 months. Thomas is a stud that is a solid defender for his size, but is only 5’9” in a league with dynamic point guards taking over the game offensively. And as he should…this man wants to get PAID. Specifically, this man wanted Boston to bring out the Brink’s truck for him. Isaiah deserves to get paid, as he has been significantly undervalued for his whole career, but Danny Ainge is a business man, and as much as he loved Isaiah as a player and as a person, he couldn’t imagine paying him over $30,000,000 a year.
How about Jae Crowder? Jae was so loved in Boston, as he fought like hell every night for his city. The problem? Well the problem was a bigger problem for Jae than it seemed to be for Celtics fans. Now Gordon Hayward’s in town. Did Jae really want to lose minutes to a new guy from Utah? No, remember last season when the Jazz visited Boston and the crowd chanted Hayward. Yeah, Jae didn’t like that.
And then there’s Jaylen Brown, another guy who plays similar to Jae. Did Jae really want to lose minutes to the 2nd year guy from Cal? No. What about Jayson Tatum? The rookie phenom out of Duke with all-worldly potential. Did Jae want to lose minutes to a rookie? NO WAY! Jae Crowder is still very valuable to any team in this league. At this stage in his Celtics career however, he wasn’t as valuable to them. Danny wanted to see what these young guys had. He wants to let Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum develop into the stars that he thinks they may become. Danny Ainge knew he needed to create more room for these young potential stars to earn minutes.
Now let’s move on to Zizic, the Brooklyn pick, and the 2nd round pick. A major theme of these three is major question marks. Zizic may be a future star, but he also may be a complete bust. The Brooklyn pick may turn out to be the number 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft or D’Angelo Russell could display his ice cold veins on a nightly basis and shoot the Nets to a near playoff spot in the awful back end of the Eastern Conference. And the 2nd round pick we discussed before, the next Isaiah Thomas or possibly the next G-League MVP. Either way, the question marks surrounding these three pieces, the hip and age of Isaiah Thomas, and the willingness of Jae Crowder to play in a reduced role, far outweighed the question mark of whether or not Kyrie Irving could excel without King James leading the way. Do you remember Irving’s game winning three over Steph Curry in game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals? Yeah, so do I…and so does Danny Ainge.
Why is Kyrie Irving so special you may ask? Kyrie is 3 years younger than Isaiah and is under team control for longer than Isaiah. Kyrie is also 6 inches taller than Isaiah and while not a great defender, more capable to hold his own defensively due to his height advantage. He has also proven that he is clutch on the NBA’s biggest stage, The NBA Finals. His handles and ability to get to the basket and launch up shots from ridiculous angles are simply unmatched in today’s league. He will also now be coached by Brad Stevens. Stevens has proven time and time again that he simply gets the most out of players, no matter who the player may be. Playing along-side Al Horford, one of the games most underrated and unselfish players, will prove invaluable for a guy like Kyrie. Just sit back and watch in awe as Kyrie Irving develops into a perennial league MVP candidate in Beantown. I’m telling you, it’s going to happen.
Danny Ainge’s main goal right now is to put together a team that will raise banner number 18 in TD Garden. When Kyrie Irving became available this off-season, I believe Danny Ainge asked himself one question. That question was, “Is our team currently good enough to win an NBA title?” Not win the Eastern Conference, not be a championship contender, but, “Are we legitimately good enough to beat the Golden State Warriors in a 7-game series?” And I believe Danny’s answer to himself was, “No.” And at that moment, Danny Ainge knew, he had to acquire Kyrie Irving. The Celtics will be contenders this season. They may not win the NBA Championship; they may not even win the Eastern Conference. But for much of the next decade, the Boston Celtics will represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, and they may even win multiple NBA titles. All Danny Ainge will be saying is, “I told you so.” And all we will be saying is, “That genius did it again.”