What Trick Does Danny Ainge Have Up His Sleeve?
What Trick Does Danny Ainge Have Up His Sleeve?
After the Golden State Warriors stampeded the rest of the league en route to winning the 2017 NBA Championship, Daryl Morey the GM of the Houston Rockets made some interesting comments. “We’ve got a trick up our sleeve”. Morey sure did. Houston just traded for Chris Paul in trying to form a super team to batter the juggernaut Warriors. Some teams are scared. They want to wait the Warriors out. Stack picks, get cap space, develop young players, and wait for their time to strike. Other teams like the Rockets aren’t so patient. They’re going for it, and expect other teams to follow suit.
Free agency has started and it already crazy. Twitter is exploding. Paul George is a Thunder. Paul Millsap, and Gordon Hayward could all be on different teams in a few days time. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Of all the teams to watch in free agency, most people have their eyes on the Boston Celtics. No team can match their combination of young assets and future draft picks. Plus people forget this is already a good team. People talk about them like they are rebuilding. They won 53 games and made the eastern conference finals. However, we all know that the eastern conference finals are their ceiling. They need another big fish or two, to take them over the hump. Danny Ainge knows that. He has stored picks and assets for years now like a squirrel. Ainge is a good GM and he has a plan. Timing is everything in the NBA. You have to know when to go for it. Each day things change. Current young assets heading toward free agency get less valuable; when the picks become players they also become less valuable. With options come tough decisions. Other teams would kill for these options. There are several ways to play this. Lets try to break it down.
Option A -Stay the Course!
This is actually probably not their plan A, but it would be the simplest. It is more of a long-term approach. Boston selected Jayson Tatum and have international prospect Ante Zizic coming over this year as well. They may have a second one in Guerschon Yabusele, but that could be delayed a year. Adding two more young pieces to a solid core would put them around 50-55 wins again. Even though Boston won 53 games last year, their point differential was that of a 48 win team.
This would also be a last resort strategy if they whiff on Gordon Hayward, after they weren’t able to trade for Paul George. Celtics fans wouldn’t like it; they want to win NOW! That doesn’t mean this option would be the worst thing in the world. Boston has a 2018 first from Brooklyn and the Lakers. 2019 first round picks from the Clippers, Grizzlies and Kings. I know its ridiculous. Staying the course means they could get a stud like Michael Porter in next years draft. The tougher decision they have is on their current players. Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley are all free agents next year. Who do they trade, who are they trying to keep?
Lets start with Marcus Smart. A bulldog defensive point guard, who is still young and improving. He is limited offensively, but he is getting better. Teams will be interested and the asking price will be high. Losing him would really hurt their depth. I’d keep him and trust I can sign him next year. Bradley is the one I would try to move. A solid all around player, and great defender, but a player that knows his value. Signing him to an extension would hurt their cap and ability to get Hayward. I would move him as soon as possible. His value is declining by the day, as he gets closer to free agency.
Finally Isaiah Thomas. What a dilemma. This is a guy who averaged 30 points a game, and when he leaves the floor the Celtics look like the Thunder without Westbrook. Hot garbage. Things changed in the playoffs though. Thomas has had more and more problems to hide defensively by the round. He is also not a great playmaker. When he got hurt against Cleveland, Boston found something. They ran their offense through Horford, had a better ball movement, and of course their defense improved. This brings them to a very tough decision. Amidst all the trade and free agency rumors, this may be the toughest decision the Celtics are facing. Don’t get me wrong if Thomas missed the season, the Celtics would be worse. You need him for a random January night in Orlando when the offense is bogged down.
Next offseason Thomas will command the max, which will be around $200 million. There has been no sign he would take anything less. Does Boston want to pay him that? They know he can’t be the best player on a championship team. Maybe they think getting Hayward would be enough. Does Boston consider trading Thomas? Would Hayward come without Thomas? Expect Boston to hold on to Thomas and hope for the best. It seems like a cross that bridge when we get their scenario. Boston is hopeful hey can surround Thomas with enough talent that they can make up for his defensive issues and even convince him to take less next summer.
Option B- Gordon Hayward!
Boston wants him. Hayward and Stevens are close. Hayward would cement Boston as the second best team in the east and a real competitor to Cleveland. Adding Hayward would cost Boston some of its depth. It’s the only way they can open up enough money to sign him. They would most likely have to trade on of Bradley and Smart. As I mentioned earlier I would keep Smart, even though you could probably get more for him. If the offer is ridiculous, move him. They may also have to move one of my favorite players in Terry Rozier. Depth would be sacrificed, but that is the price of adding a star. Adding Hayward would move Boston to the 55-60 win territory. Hayward is as complete of a player as there is. He may not be a superstar, but he is most definitely a star. Hayward singing with Boston is great, but it makes it tough to snag another big fish. There simply isn’t enough camp room. But Hayward alone would improve this team significantly.
Option C- The Master Plan!
MUAH HAH HAH- That was an evil laugh. Okay Boston could have a real big trick up its sleeve. That could combine some of these options. Stay the course, hold on to draft pick. Acquire Gordon Hayward. Trade Bradley or Smart as well as Rozier to open space. That way you still have a ton of picks and young assets. You still have Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, the international kids and maybe Marcus Smart. With that you can make a big trade. Like a trade to land a really big fish, or should I say PELICAN! God I’m a tool. I am talking about Anthony Davis. A first team all-NBA player, who is a legit superstar, and is still on the rise. Him and Boogie have a high chance of failing. They have nothing around them even if they do re-sign Jrue Holiday. New Orleans may have to rebuild sooner than later. Boston would be able to offer them the best package in the league. This may be two years down the road though. Boston fans are impatient I hear. Well they could get Hayward in the meantime. Win 55 games, attract other free agents the following year and then hit on their draft picks. Davis could fill in perfectly as Al Horford gets older. Signing Hayward satisfies the short-term win now move. Keeping picks satisfies the long-term move of getting a guy like Anthony Davis. Something to think about.
- I have yet to bring up my boy Kelly Olynk. He is a free agent. Of all the players in the league Olynk is tough to read. Sometimes he is great and sometimes he is awful. Boston will likely see the market for him and then make a decision. They also may let him go to open more cap room. It would hurt their depth up front, which is already thin. Remember they are awful at rebounding and almost lost a playoff series to ROBIN LOPEZ!
- I mentioned Blake briefly earlier. Getting him and Hayward would be tough, but possible. The Clippers and the Suns will throw big money at Blake. Blake would help Boston’s rebounding, but may not be the perfect fit with Horford. Griffin is also high risk/ high reward. Injuries are a problem, and he may not be ready to play until December. If Boston can’t get Blake look for them to try cheaper rebounders. Though, as of now, Griffin is close to resigning with the Clippers.
- Speaking of which. Keep an eye on Taj Gibson. Would be a great fit. A veteran who can defend and rebound at a high level. Whatever happens Boston needs to address their frontcourt depth. Zach Randolph on a one-year deal could be another.
Prediction/What I Would Do!
I think Boston gets Hayward. Utah can offer him the most money, but Hayward can make it up in his next deal. Hayward is a competitor and he wants to win. He knows Boston gives him the best chance. With Boston you get to avoid the Warriors for as long as possible. I don’t think the Celtics get Blake. Blake will likely want too much money. Getting Hayward is a win, and the beginning of possibly forming a super team. You improve in the short-term without jeopardizing the long-term. I would get him, and get cheap rebounders. Trade Bradley to open up future cap space. With Isaiah I make some calls at the deadline, see what the market is for him, but most likely I keep him. Hopefully Ainge can convince him to stay on a sweeter deal next year. While all this is happening, I am keeping a very close eye on Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.
Boston has a million questions/options and decisions. I know there is no other team I am watching more this week. Happy free agency everybody!