Danny Ainge has been no stranger to criticism since becoming Boston Celtics Executive Director of Basketball Operations in May 2003 (and President in 2008).
Many cite his propensity for trading homegrown stars, like Antoine Walker and Kendrick Perkins. Others blame glaring weaknesses on NBA draft day. But the 6'5” redhead GM, known for his hard-nosed attitude on the court, has carried his days as an executive with the same disregard for his own popularity.
Ainge often makes decisions that draw the ire of Celtics Nation. His days in charge began with the widely-criticized Walker trade, in which Boston netted Raef LaFrentz, Jiri Welsch and Chris Mills.
At the time, 'Toine was the Celtics' undisputed leader, averaging close to 21 points and nine rebounds per game over his seven-year tenure in Boston. Since he was the first real star of the Boston Garden since the Larry Bird era, fans rejected the thought of losing him and trusting in all young players.
It did not help that the C's averaged less than 35 wins per season in Ainge's first four years at the helm. The chatter among Boston sports radio was that Danny's managerial days would be short-lived.
But he redeemed himself with two huge trades prior to the 2007 season, one for Kevin Garnett and one for Ray Allen. The Celtics won 66 games that year, the franchise's most since 1986. Captain Paul Pierce, Garnett and Allen (donned the “Big Three”) took home the 2008 NBA Championship over their storied rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Ainge was named NBA Executive of the Year.
Boston has won the Atlantic Division every year since, but they have only been back to the NBA Finals once, in a losing effort against the Lakers in a 2010 rematch. The Perkins deadline-day trade in 2011 left a semi-permanent bad taste in a wide array of Bostonian mouths, especially considering the fact that injury-plagued Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal were left to shoulder the load at center.
But the Antoine Walker trade introduced two positives: no more one-on-one hoisting of three-point shots by an inconsistent ball hog and the arrival of guard Delonte West. And the Perkins trade, like it or not, brought Jeff Green to Boston for an expiring contract. Green may have missed all of 2011 with a heart condition, but he's coming on strong now and looks to be the future of the Celtics.
Leaving aside the court of public opinion, Ainge deserves a pass on those two deals. The following slides detail what actually constitutes the five worst decisions of the Danny Ainge era.