Recently we looked at Danny Ainge's five worst moves as General Manger for the Boston Celtics.
Now it's time to examine his successes, of which there are many.
Danny Ainge is one of four GMs in the NBA who have built an NBA Championship team. During Ainge's time in Boston, the Celtics have made the playoffs five out of seven season and there are only two GMs who have won more division titles than Ainge.
Many of Ainge's best moves have been through the draft, whether it was via trade or simply making the right pick. Since this list will be limited to five examples, here are a few moves that have earned honorable mention:
- February 13, 2004: Danny Ainge waived forward Vin Baker from the roster. Baker clearly had his own personal issues and I'm certainly not going to attack him for that. However, no other team in the NBA was willing to take such a large risk on Baker let alone award him a large contract. At the time of his release, he had 2.5 years and $35 million left on his contract. Ainge was essentially forced to close the chapter on this tragedy.
- July 17, 2006: Rumors were flying around that Pierce was no longer interested in being a member of the rebuilding process in Boston. There was some thought that Pierce would ask for a trade or simply look for another team in the NBA. Ainge was able to convince Pierce to stay in Boston and assured him that things were going to turn around soon, which led to Pierce signing a three-year, $59 million deal.
- August 30, 2007: Tom Thibodeau was signed as an assistant coach. Nothing more needs to be said.
The 2003 NBA Draft was the beginning of the Danny Ainge era. The draft will arguably go down as one of the best draft classes ever with the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony all being drafted.
While the Celtics didn't land any superstars, it resulted in a major component for the future Celtics championship team.
Boston held the 16th, 20th and 56th picks overall, which resulted in the drafting of Troy Bell (Boston College), Dahntay Jones (Duke University) and Brandon Hunter (Ohio) respectively. Many Celtics fans were already very familiar with Troy Bell, but scouts were not so optimistic on his NBA career.
Ainge decided to ship the 16th and 20th picks to the Memphis Grizzlies in return for the 13th and 27th pick. The Celtics then chose guard Marcus Banks (UNLV) and big man Kendrick Perkins.
Banks never lived up to his potential and Brandon Hunter simply was not cut out for the NBA.
Fortunately for the Celtics, they found something useful in Kendrick Perkins. His impact on the current Celtics team is immeasurable and hopefully the Celtics can find a way to re-sign him this off-season.
In 2003, Ainge traded away Antoine Walker and Tony Delk to the Dallas Mavericks for a package that included Raef LaFrentz, Jiri Welsch and a 2004 first round pick (eventually becoming Delonte West). The move overall did not help the Celtics and was one of Ainge's worst.
On February 24, 2005, Ainge decided to send guard Jiri Welsch to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for a 2007 first round draft pick. (The fact that Ainge convinced another GM that Jiri Welsch was worth a first round pick still boggles my mind.)
During the 2006 NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns decided to trade out of the first round and traded their 21st overall pick to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Cleveland's 2007 first round pick. The Suns were responsible for making the pick, but a deal had been reached in which they would simply draft whomever the Celtics coveted most. The Celtics decided to draft Kentucky guard Rajon Rondo.
The following year, the Phoenix Suns used the 24th overall pick to select guard Rudy Fernandez.
Rajon Rondo or Rudy Fernandez? You decide.
The rebuilding process was in full effect and Ainge needed to provide the Celtics with something to look forward to. Boston held the 15th, 24th and 25th overall picks in which they selected Al Jefferson, Delonte West and Tony Allen respectively.
Jefferson showed some early flashes of greatness and was eventually included in a trade package that brought in Kevin Garnett. Today Big Al plays for the Utah Jazz.
Delonte West has proven to be a quality guard as well as solid role player. The Celtics hope he can return to his usual form from his recent wrist injury.
Tony Allen was frustrating at times, but he was also really fun to watch at times. He was more known for a defensive prowl and as Bill Simmons once wrote, "the most exciting Celtics rookie since Dee Brown." Tony played a major role in the Celtics winning their NBA championship and currently plays for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Coming off an abysmal 2006-2007 season in which Boston finished with a record of 24-58, things were rather bleak for Celtics nation. Ainge was hoping for one of the top two picks in the upcoming NBA Draft, but once again, the ping-pong balls did not bounce the Celtics way and instead ended up with the fifth pick overall.
Ainge decided that it was time for a change. On the night of the 2007 NBA Draft, the Celtics traded their No. 5 pick along with Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak to the Seattle Supersonics in return for Ray Allen and the 35th overall pick in the draft. The Celtics used that pick to draft Glen Davis who has become a major role player for Boston.
With Allen in place, fans believed that a return to the playoffs was almost guaranteed coupled with the return of Paul Pierce (injury plagued season) and a developing Al Jefferson.
However, things were just beginning to change...
Ainge knew that if the Celtics were to become serious championship contenders, he needed to bring a proven veteran big man. Kevin Garnett was on the trading block as the Minnesota Timberwolves were no longer his team of choice and old friend Kevin McHale liked what Ainge had to offer.
The Celtics offered the Wolves Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff and a first round draft pick in return for Kevin Garnett.
Garnett's presence completely changed the culture of basketball within the Celtics organization. Defense was the primary focus and the Celtics have consistently remained at the top of defensive rankings since his arrival.
It's safe to say now that Ainge certainly got the better of this deal. Al Jefferson was sent to the Utah and only Sebastian Telfair remains on the Wolves roster (after stints in Cleveland and the LA Clippers). The draft pick in which Minnesota received resulted in Wayne Ellington.
The Celtics will soon re-enter a rebuilding phase and hopefully Danny Ainge can continue his hot streak.
Coupled with the uncertainty of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Celtics have several major factors that need to be address this up-coming season. Needless to say, the Celtics' No. 1 focus right now is on winning another championship.