Boston Celtics: Danny Ainge's Five Worst Moves As General Manager
In 2003, the Celtics hired Danny Ainge to the position of Executive Director of Basketball Operations. Essentially, Ainge was in charge of creating the Celtics' roster and other various basketball operations. Ainge was originally drafted out of Brigham Young University by the Celtics in 1981 with the 31st overall pick. He was a a member of two champion teams (1984 and 1986) and even made the All-Star team in 1988.
As the Celtics' general manager, Ainge has been very active over the years and only one player remains on the roster since his takeover in 2003 (Paul Pierce). During his time, the Celtics have made the playoffs five out of seven years, which includes four division titles, two conference titles, and one NBA championship.
Things haven't always gone well for Ainge. He initially struggled with remaking the Celtics and many fans (including myself) had turned on him. This slideshow will take a look back at his worst moves as general manager, in no particular order. Obviously some moves are more absurd than others, but I'll allow you to decide that.
Tomorrow, we'll examine his five best moves as GM of the Celtics.
October 23, 2003: No More Antoine
It was the end of an era. Antoine Walker was being shipped out of town along with Tony Delk to the Dallas Mavericks for Jiri Welsch, Chris Mills, Raef LaFrentz, and a 2004 first-round draft pick.
Antoine was the face of the Celtics at the time and along with Paul Pierce, the Celtics were a formidable Eastern Conference power. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Antoine was talented, but in Ainge's mind, he wasn't happy with how Antoine played. Too many three-pointers, not enough inside game, and an average defensive prowl.
Regardless of Antoine's weaknesses, he was a matchup nightmare. Very few power forwards were able to guard Antoine on a nightly basis. His skill set even allowed him to play small forward at times while Pierce was learning the NBA game. 'Toine was also a fan favorite and received a standing ovation from the Boston crowd in his return as a member of the Mavericks.
Tony Delk was a solid point guard, nothing too special, but he played good defense at times and knew how to play well within the Celtics system. The loss of Delk forced Boston to resort to rookie Marcus Banks and veteran Chucky Atkins. It was apparent that point guard had become a weak spot for the Celtics.
In return, the Celtics received sharpshooter Jiri Welsch, Chris Mills, and big man Raef LaFrentz. Welsch was an average shooter and never really developed into what the Celtics had hoped. The main 'prize' of the trade was Raef LaFrentz. He had a unique skill-set but only played in 17 games in his first season in Boston due to injuries. LaFrentz returned to his normal form the following season, '04-'05, but the Celtics sold themselves short on the trade. It was clear that the Mavericks got the better end of things.
The one bright side in this trade was in the first-round pick in which Boston received from Dallas in the 2004 NBA Draft. With the 24th pick, the Celtics selected Delonte West. Delonte has proven himself to be a quality NBA player and hopefully can continue to show that in his return from injury.
July 14, 2004: Blount Diaster
We've all seen a player in their contract year go out and perform at a higher level than expected. We automatically assume that Player X will consistently provide the increased production and more willingness to help the team. And of course the moment they get that big contract, it's as if the player forgot how to compete.
Player X for the Celtics was Mark Blount. As Bill Simmons once put it, "He's a Grade-A stiff. Let the record show that Blount played hard for 50 games in his NBA career, weaseled a giant contract out of the Celtics, then went right back to not giving a crap."
Ainge gave Blount an outrageous contract worth six years and $42 million. To this day, it honestly frustrates me that Blount was paid so nonsensically. To make things even worse, Ainge included a 15 percent trade kicker into his contract. It's a miracle that Ainge was actually able to trade him after all.
Eventually Mark was sent to Minnesota in a package which resulted in Wally Szczerbiak and other pieces.
2005 NBA Draft: A Wasted Year
Danny Ainge has been rather good at finding quality players in the draft, but that was not the case during the 2005 NBA Draft.
The Celtics held the 18th, 50th, and 53rd picks overall. With those selections, they chose Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes and Orien Greene.
Gerald Green was without a doubt the most exiting garbage time player in the NBA. His dunks were electric and every now and then, he would make a jumper. Gerald was expected to be a top lottery pick and his game earned comparisons to that of Tracy McGrady. Unfortunately, Gerald never developed the way Celtics fans had hoped for.
In hindsight, Gerald should have kept his commitment to Oklahoma State University in hopes of becoming a better basketball player. There's no guarantee that he would have emerged as a great player, but going straight into the draft certainly didn't work.
Ryan Gomes was a quality player for the Celtics and has proven himself in the NBA. Despite being an undersized power forward, Gomes worked extremely hard on his game and has made the transition into a serviceable small forward for the LA Clippers. Gomes was eventually sent to Minnesota in a package for Kevin Garnett.
No comment on Orien Greene. Really hoping for a miracle with the 53rd pick.
The 2005 draft was relatively weak overall, with the exception of Deron Williams and Chris Paul. However, here is a list of players the Celtics could have drafted instead of the aforementioned: David Lee, Brandon Bass, C.J. Miles, Monta Ellis, and Marcin Gortat.
August 2, 2005: Throwing Away Money
To this day, it angers me that Brian Scalabrine was signed by the Boston Celtics.
For some reason, Danny Ainge envisioned something completely different than most Celtics fans and paid dearly for it. Five years, $15 million. That's not going to break the bank by any means, but the Celtics could have used an extra $3 million every season to acquire a player with actual skills.
Sure, Scal eventually became a fan favorite in his remaining two seasons with the Celtics, but it was more sympathy than anything. He was SO bad that fans had no other choice than simply cheer him on. In fact, it was pathetic.
To be fair, Scal did his best whenever he got playing time. He hustled, tried to play defense, and was a good teammate. He simply lacked the talent and athleticism for the Celtics' system.
June 28, 2006: The One That Got Away
The 2006 draft is usually remember for only one thing to Celtics fans, the trading/drafting of Rajon Rondo (and maybe Leon Powe). However, the Celtics made a rather large mistake with their original draft pick.
During the 2006 NBA Draft, the Celtics held the seventh overall pick and selected Randy Foye from Villanova University. Boston decided to trade Foye along with Dan Dickau and Raef LaFrentz to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff, and a 2008 second round draft pick.
The Trail Blazers then decided to ship Foye to Minnesota in exchange for the sixth overall pick, which turned into Brandon Roy.
Complete disaster. Essentially, Ainge just traded Brandon Roy in exchange for Sebastian Telfair.
Obviously things have worked out well in the end for Boston, but the Celtics can not afford these costly mistakes in upcoming rebuilding years.
Danny Ainge has done a good job lately for the Celtics, but Celtics fans should not forget that he once struggled and wasn't always a great GM.