…a little late, but…so be it…
So the NBA trade deadline came and went last week with Boston Celtic GM “Trader Danny” Ainge making ZERO moves. I was kind of shocked when I read it, but apparently, this is the fifth consecutive deadline that Ainge has not made a deal. Perhaps it’s time to retire the “Trader Danny” nickname?
The Celtics have a true core of five players that really carry the load: Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart (yes, he is a key piece of the team…live with it). If you wanted to combine Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter into a sixth, then go right ahead. Though not ideal, those two should not kill you playing the “5”.
But that’s all folks. You can shove as much Grant Williams down my throat as you want. But although I appreciate the hustle and drive he shows out there, I have no interest in seeing this guy on the court when the playoffs arrive.
Speaking of “shoving someone down our throat”, Head Coach Brad Stevens has been trying to do this with Semi Ojeleye for almost three years running now. Maybe in the right situation, “Shemi” may actually be able to play in the NBA? I don’t know. But I do know that this dude is atrocious and does absolutely nothing for me. And please spare me with “he guards Giannis well, so he should play a lot against Milwaukee if they end up playing them” bit. Please. I think Ojeleye’s defense against Giannis is a little overstated. But that is me. Furthermore, if he can actually guard Giannis, why can he not guard anyone else in the league? I think the 6 fouls he has per game is the most valuable thing about him. Moving on…
Robert Williams? I would have LOVED to have seen more of him this season to see what his raw ability could have added to the team. But a hip injury wiped that out. He is supposedly due back in March. Can he add value coming off the bench for a few minutes a game? Perhaps. But can he be counted on? Nope.
Romeo Langford? Not this year anyway. The 14th pick overall has missed a great deal of the season with a variety of injuries. Now seemingly past all that, Langford had kind of a breakout game last Friday against the Atlanta Hawks. you know, the “bottom of the conference” Hawks that is. Then Romeo turned that progress into an ugly 6 minute stint against the much better Oklahoma City Thunder 2 days later. I am not sure if the kid can play in the NBA over the long haul as of yet. But he certainly isn’t ready now.
We could keep going through the rest of the roster, but I will spare you. No one else can be trusted. And since I spared you by not going through the rest of the names on the roster individually, please spare me any Tacko Fall comments as well. Thank you in advance.
The point is, the team could use some help off the bench. A veteran or two. A big man to share the load with Theis and Kanter…or even overtake them in the rotation. Some help anyway.
And…nothing. So what does that mean?
I suppose big men such as Clint Capela and Andre Drummond were not real options because they don’t shoot three pointers and therefore were not a fit for Stevens’ system. Neither does Kanter…though maybe that’s why, in his case, despite him being a rebounding machine, he plays less than 20 minutes a game here.
But what about other wings and ball handlers? There weren’t any available? Are you really satisfied with Brad Wanamaker Danny? I don’t see it.
Salary cap issues? Perhaps. But those things have a way of working themselves out if a deal needs to get done. And I am not talking about “throwing” a core player in a deal to make the numbers work.
Draft pick hesitation? The picks the Celtics have coming up are almost worthless now. Mid to late first rounders. Not worthless, that is hyperbole. But it’s not like having a pick in the top three. I think you get my point.
Not wanting to give up on younger players? I mean, Langford MAY be a player someday. Not guaranteed. Robert Williams MAY be worth holding on to. But not necessarily. Grant Williams MAY be a decent bench player in this league going forward. Carsen Edwards? Disappointment. I thought he would be able to come off the bench and hit some buckets. Hasn’t happened this year. Tremont Waters has some skill, but his height will always haunt him. Besides, if he had that much promise, wouldn’t he have a real roster spot now, instead of a two-way deal?
You can have the whole lot of them, in my opinion. Guys of that ilk will always be available.
Side note: I guess one writer said the C’s may be hesitant to give up on players like Vincent Poirier because he has “flashed at times this season”. Poirier has played 108 minutes the whole year, as of this writing. How much “flashing” can that provide??!
In any event, so why did Danny not make a deal?
Glad you asked!
I believe some of the chatter that I’ve heard on talk radio this week. I think Ainge thinks that this team is not good enough to win a championship and may be more than one or two “pieces” away. That the West is loaded and that the East seems to be all Milwaukee. I don’t believe that Danny wants to make deals for this year when he believes holding on to “assets” for the future is better for the team.
That being said, what did Ainge really have at his disposal to give up? The younger bench guys ain’t getting him anything great. The future draft picks either. Theis and/or Kanter? Maybe as a piece. But not as a major part of any deal.
That means he would have been dipping into one of the five “core” players. And what would be the sense of that when they are trying to add to that core and not take away from it?
One initial thought I had was…gasp…is there a chance Gordon Hayward may be available? He has a huge player option next year. Which means he will opt out of it. Because that’s what professional athletes do. Hayward has been pretty good when he’s been on the floor this season. But he has missed some time. And he has been a little snakebitten here over the years with injury. Jaylen Brown’s cap hit goes from 6.5 mil to almost 24 mil next season. Jayson Tatum still needs to get paid.
Could Gordo become a casualty, either at the deadline this season, or next summer? Despite the obvious ties to Brad? Well, the deadline has passed. But was that possibly being bandied about as a potential move before the deadline? And may be on the table over the summer?
Remember also that Hayward was the subject of some teammates’ dissatisfaction last season when Brad forced minutes on him when he wasn’t quite ready in his return from his major injury the season before. Taking away minutes from the likes of Brown and Tatum, who felt like they earned them with their long playoff run from the previous season.
Maybe Langford grows into that “other guy” down the road. Some of the other kids/picks develop. Tatum gets his dough. And he, Brown and Kemba are the three top dogs.
I didn’t think it was a real option for this season. But a real option over the summer? And that perhaps is when Ainge is ready to make his “next big move”, to take the step to legitimate championship contender?
Hard to say. But can a team really have four max contracts…or close to max contracts?
Then I see something recently where the team wants Gordo still for the long haul.
So who knows what Danny is thinking?
If I am “Trader Danny” though, I try to make a deal for a couple of veteran bench guys last week. You already have four scorers. You just can’t play them 48 minutes a game in the playoffs. And you sure as hell cannot trust most of the other guys on the roster other than Smart. As long as he isn’t shooting a ton himself, that is. Adding some reliable veterans to fill up the main bench minutes along with Theis and Kanter would have satisfied me at least. And Danny didn’t get it done.
I’m still not sure that adding the vet depth pieces would make them a legit contender this season. But it would have certainly put them in a better place.
A trip to the Eastern Conference may be the best Celtics fans can hope for.
Ok, so I’ve had several days to chew (stew?) over the NBA draft that occurred last Thursday. Well, not the draft as a whole. Just the Boston Celtics performance throughout it.
As usual, the delay in commenting is partly by design. Part laziness of course. Maybe part “life getting in the way” too. But definitely some by design. And that can be a good thing in cases such as this. Because Thursday night I was furious. And now? Not as much. Disappointed? Yup. But I’ve certainly cooled off quite a bit.
That’s because Kevin Durant is coming to Boston!! Haha…no, I still believe that has zero chance of happening. It’s great that they are one of the 6 teams that will get a meeting with him. But maybe that’s only because Ainge has been trying to schmooze KD’s Mom for quite some time and Kevin is just doing a solid for Danny…or something like that. But in any event, it’s hard to believe he would come to the Celtics over the other teams, specifically the teams from the West. Still feel like he isn’t leaving Oklahoma City. We’ll find out soon enough, but I digress…
To recap briefly, with their 8 picks, the C’s took 6 bodies and traded 2 of the picks for a protected (1-14) 2019 first round pick or a protected (1-14) 2020 first round pick or a 2022 second round pick from the Los Angeles Clippers. 2022 is a long ways away, but it looks like it may be the 2nd rounder. Whatever. More on that later.
Most of the locals thought the Celts would trade their first pick at #3 overall. After all, it was supposed to be a 2-person draft in Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. After that, maybe from 3-8 you could get some pretty good talent still, but no one had a consensus of which order they would go in and what each of those players’ upsides may be. Lots of question marks. Many also thought a trade was a given because of all the rumors swirling around and the long-standing promise by C’s management of “fireworks” and all that nonsense.
Of course, if you have the #3 pick in what is considered a “2-person draft”, well, that can impact the value of that pick…thank you, Captain Obvious. But I think the fans were buoyed by the fact that rumors were rampant. Not that one is supposed to believe any and all rumors out there on the mill. But where there is smoke there is fire. If you hear enough rumors, maybe one will come true. And I think most of us were hanging our hats on that.
The one that got a lot of us, maybe most of us, including definitely myself, were the rumors with Philly. The Sixers have plenty of big men and were set to take Simmons. The C’s have plenty of guards. The Sixers lacked guards. The C’s lack big men. It looked like a perfect match.
As the week went on, as a C’s fan, you hoped they could pry Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel for the #3 pick alone. You thought the Sixers would want more. As draft time moved closer, you heard that Danny wanted one of those two for the pick, but he also wanted Philly to sweeten the pot. Then after the draft you heard Philly offered Noel, picks #24 & #26 and Robert Covington for the #3 pick alone. But Ainge wanted next year’s Philly first round protected Los Angeles Lakers’ pick and Noel for the #3. Blah, blah, blah…and nothing happened.
I don’t blame Philly for balking on next years’ pick. But I wonder why Danny didn’t take Noel, Covington and the picks? The picks were low, I get it…but there’s your 2 foreign guys you actually took this year, if you wish. Noel should be an upgrade down low and Covington is useful. Seems like it may be fair enough…from my observation anyway. But maybe Noel is overrated…according to people more connected to the league than I am…and therefore likely more knowledgeable as well.
Was Ainge thinking he could’ve done better with that pick? I don’t know. Apparently, the Chicago Bulls were asking for all 3 first rounders, next year’s Brooklyn pick (likely a good one also), Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley all for Jimmy Butler. Yikes! Glad they didn’t do that one. I’m pretty sure anyway. You would also have to think there was some team out there that liked one of the players from 3-8 and they may have been trying to make a last-minute push to land at #3. Sure, no one was going to ridiculously overpay to move to #3. But you have to believe there were more offers out there. And Danny obviously stood pat.
In any event, the Celtics took Jaylen Brown at #3. Underwhelming, to say the least. When it became apparent that they were keeping him, that’s when I was pretty aggravated. Angry, actually. Celtics fans were clearly feeling the same, judging by the negative response…everywhere…and by the booing of co-owner Wyc Grousbeck at the Celtics draft party when he announced the pick. Ouch.
Brown may be a helluva player. And a model citizen to boot. But he’s 19 years old. Unproven. Among other things. The reports on him are that he COULD develop into a stud…but right now he can’t shoot. Ummmm…WHAT?! The C’s need big men and shooters. Brown is neither. If you can’t shoot at 19, presumably after hoisting up thousands and thousands of shots as practice throughout all your youth, can you really learn to shoot as you get older? And he is the crown jewel of their draft. Yuck…I think…
Then the 2 foreign dudes, at #16, Geurschon Yabusele (who?) and Ante Zizic at #23. A lot of “experts” actually had Zizic in that very spot, so maybe he is ok, but no one has ever heard of Yabusele I don’t think. Not that high in the draft anyway. If they both stay overseas, how does that help the team next year?
I normally don’t care about 2nd rounders, but #31 and #35 are kind of high. Great players like Draymond Green and DeAndre Jordan have fallen to this area in the past. So the trade irked me that night as well. I have no idea if Deyonta Davis can play even a lick. But seeing that he was a lottery consideration at one point, and a big guy the C’s need, when he went at #31, it got me a little riled up. Rade Zagoric at #35? No clue. But there could’ve been another flyer taken on someone with potential there, even if it wasn’t Zagoric specifically.
Then you could have given away the later 3 picks if you wished. Though some thought the C’s did well to get Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil with 2 of them.
So to make a short story long, the masses, myself included, were hoping to land an established star for the pick, obviously with the Celtics adding other assets to get that star. And instead, all we got was a 19-year-old kid, 2 foreign guys that may stay overseas and maybe a 2022 draft pick. Oh, and some probable roster filler.
No wonder we were all sour, when you put it that way.
BUT, I have kind of changed my tune on it…at least a little. Why? Well, allow me to explain!
In the next post…
I think Trader Danny has made a deal every day this week. Seems like it anyway. But you know what? AWESOME! Hope he keeps it up.
So most of these deals have not been blockbusters. Apologies to the Jeff Green fans that think his deal was one. But each deal seems to have some sort of positive outcome for the Celtics.
Look, we are not going to know for possibly several years how this “era” of trading and tanking will eventually turn out. But based on how today’s NBA works and what the roster looked like before last year and then into this year, would there be a better way for Ainge to navigate the waters? I personally think not.
The biggest move was obviously the Rajon Rondo trade about a month ago. My distaste for all things Rondo is well documented, so admittedly there is a huge bias in this space. I think it was a great trade, based entirely on the circumstances. Many do not, based on ANY circumstances. But, in reality, can we judge the trade accurately at this very point in time? Probably not.
I’ve never really liked Rondo’s game from Day One. He is a very good player, no doubt. I’ve often been accused of saying he has sucked, but that is untrue. Just never a fan. I personally like my point guards to hit an open jumper and to hit free throws. After all, if one is going to handle the ball all the time, especially at the end of games, shouldn’t these be prerequisites? Why do you think that during the “Big Three” era, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce handled the ball at the end of games and not Rondo? Yup. He was a nice fit for those teams, since he was the 4th option or more. Not a great fit for the current squad…whatever variation you see out there each passing week.
Rajon even admitted that he basically stopped playing defense in recent years. Since he came into the league as a kind of defensive specialist…even dynamo at some points…this is kind of important to digest. Especially since the Celts inexplicably made him a captain last year. Not the type of leader I want for my team. Moody. Skipping a game to celebrate his birthday, when the team did not give him permission, Bad attitude. Etc.
For some reason, people did not remember (accept?) that he was in the last year of his contract. He wanted a max deal, the team wasn’t giving it to him. He was leaving and the time to deal him was any time this year (actually it was like 2-3 years ago, but again, just my opinion). People wanted to wait until closer to the deadline. For what? Did they think the C’s would get more at that time? Not likely.
Of course the return for Rondo was underwhelming. Jameer Nelson, Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, first round pick & second round pick. Yuck. AND they had to throw in the immortal Dwight Powell as a sweetener to get it done!! But they somehow turned Wright into a first rounder (ok, likely 2 seconds, but still). And they were able to shed Nelson’s salary next year (when he exercised his player option…since no one is giving him 3.2 mil this offseason) by swapping him for Nate Robinson’s expiring deal…and then bought out Robinson to save more dough. Crowder may or may not be a bench rotation guy for the C’s, they seem to like him. But with all the picks acquired, can people say this really was a BAD deal? Who knows yet? Hell, maybe Powell becomes a stud. Some jackass writer in Dallas apparently thinks he could be a good player, apparently after a 29 minutes stint in ONE game. Little early to get excited about a guy who has bounced around the league already after one game…but to each his own.
As for the Green deal and Green himself…well, Jeff’s tenure in Boston was certainly polarizing. Actually, not really, because most people hated him. Everyone was always frustrated with him because they thought he could have been so much more of a player than he was here, heart issues notwithstanding. A lot of people held the Kendrick Perkins trade for him against him too. Not me, I supported that trade, despite Perk’s obvious fit with the Big Three (similar to Rondo’s fit, for that matter). Story for a different day. Green always seemed to have the talent to be more in my eyes as well. But if it hasn’t happened by now, it looks like it will never happen.
You may think the Green deal was somewhat underwhelming as well. Maybe. But again, the C’s got a first rounder. And two guys that will turn into more as well. Austin Rivers has been shipped out for 2 bags of poop (Shavlik Randolph and Chris Douglas-Roberts) and a 2nd rounder. But it’s another pick. Side note: I wonder what the hell happened to Rivers? His 2.5 years in the NBA have been average, at best. Actually, not even average. But he is still only 22 and was highly touted going into and coming out of college. Not sure what’s up there. They also got Tayshaun Prince for Green, but as soon as they buy him out, there’s more cash available. All indications were that Green was going to opt out of his deal after this year and was not likely to come back either (if they even wanted that). So I guess that’s about as good as you can do for that bum.
One of Danny’s biggest deals this year was well before this recent binge. People don’t remember, since it happened in the summer. He was able to turn a 2nd round pick into a 1st rounder, Tyler Zeller (a serviceable backup big man…or a “sell high” candidate?) and Marcus Thornton (yet another trade bound to happen over the next few weeks).
And there is about a month before the trade deadline still. Along with completing buyouts with some of the recent new guys, and Thornton likely out, Brandon Bass seems to be a nice trade candidate as well. I actually like Bass. Think he’s a good bench guy, though how many of those can you have? His contract is up and I would think he has some value around the league, so I imagine he’ll be gone soon. Maybe Ainge can package some of the 2nd rounders with Gerald Wallace’s corpse and get someone to take that contract? Wishful thinking probably, but I bet he is trying!
The bottom line is, we are a looooooooong way from finding out how this will all come together in the coming years. The Celtics have a multitude of picks. They have many trade exceptions. They will have plenty of cap space and money to spend. They have some young talent on the roster currently, most that have shown promise to at least contribute somehow in the future. Not to mention that, although they are inexplicably only 2 games out of a playoff spot as I write this, they still do have the 6th worst record in the league. Could be another high draft pick upcoming from their own failings on the court.
It’s obviously what Danny does with what is outlined above that will tell the story. Can’t keep all the picks. He will probably offer max deals to some players…of course we know NBA free agents don’t love to come to Boston…but maybe with overpayments, money will talk? Lot of moving parts that won’t settle for years possibly.
We shall see. We all often joke about that Ainge is accumulating “assets”. He has “assets” to work with. And all that. Just not any real players coming in that can help, it seems. Right now anyway. But answer me this please: Was there a better route to take?