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 off-season, Ainge pulled off another stunner when he managed to haul in Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz during free agency. Hayward is a silent assassin with 2016 averages of 22 points, five rebounds and four assists. Pairing him with Thomas and Al Horford seemed 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 is now in search of 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 their No. 3 pick and 2 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 off-season was a power forward. Okafor would’ve been a great addition to a front line of Horford and Jae Crowder.
But now, the Celtics are too loaded. IT lost his backcourt mate in Avery Bradley and with the possible move of defensive ace Crowder, it will really be tight trying to stop opposing teams. 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 off-season. 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.
All that was needed was a power forward and with the No. 1 pick they had, Ainge could have easily turned that and Bradley or Marcus Smart into Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, Noel or Okafor. Instead, he went and paid a hefty fine for a player whose position is already covered 3x over.
What was the reason for selecting Jaylen Brown in 2016 or Tatum this year if Hayward or Paul George was your top priority in free agency? The Celtics are one for the few teams that have great chemistry on the floor and in one off-season of desperation, Ainge broke that up to get more offensive when he needs to be aggressive on the opposite end of the floor.
You would think that Ainge never played or coached in the NBA with some of the best defensive players at his side with the moves he has made this off season. Now, because of his greediness–the Celtics will never be the same. They may win a title but a dynasty is out the question. To have a dynasty it must start with the young guys. The last two drafts have yielded players of the same position and basically the same skill set. Then you move on to the vets and with that comes the money. This is where Ainge made his fatal error.
To win, you have to pay like a winner and hope that players buy into it and agree to take reduced salaries. So far–not good for the Celtics.
Horford is on the books for $28 million per. Hayward, $32 million, then you have Thomas who’s a FA in 2018. Will Thomas, whose been there the longest be asked to take a reduced salary? If not then he can seek up to another $35M per. That’s $95 million between 3 players. If the cap does indeed reach $105M for 2018 what does that leave the Celtics with? This is not how you build a dynasty. 53 games won in 2016 with a much cheaper payroll but they had the pieces that had them in a position to make a run like the Celtics of the ’80s.
But Ainge got caught up in today’s politics and chased the Now-Ring instead of the consecutive rings. I tip my hat to Ainge for pulling off the Hayward deal but in the end– it wasn’t worth it.