Evaluating Danny Ainge's Performance During the 2014 Offseason

Brian Robb@CelticsHubFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2014

Danny Ainge, president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, answers a reporter's question during media day at the NBA basketball team's training center in Waltham, Mass., Friday, Sept. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge entered this offseason with some lofty goals, which he discussed in an interview with Toucher and Rich of CBS Boston back in April: 

I’m looking to make something happen. We will have some opportunities. The thing I have to guard against and be honest about is to make sure we do a good deal, just not a deal to blow off some fireworks, make a splash or win a PR press conference. I need to build a team to win and win for the long haul. ...

We’re certainly gonna try to set off some fireworks. You bet.

Despite watching his team sputter to a 25-57 record in the first year of head coach Brad Stevens’ tenure, Ainge appeared well-positioned to make some significant progress in advancing Boston’s rebuild this summer with a deep collection of assets.

Expectations were heightened in May once Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that the Celtics were in pursuit of Timberwolves star Kevin Love. After seeing the quick turnaround Ainge produced in the summer of 2007, the idea of acquiring Love to help Boston jump right back into contention in the Eastern Conference next year wasn’t a far-fetched scenario in the minds of Celtics fans.

A sobering dose of reality on the trade market then hit the Celtics' front office hard. A mix of draft picks and young talent was not enough to entice Minnesota to give up Love, according to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald.

With the possibility of acquiring a superstar out of the picture, the team’s eventual Plan B this offseason hasn’t exactly been filled with the fireworks Celtics fans were expecting.

Marcus Thornton and his $8.6 million expiring contract were absorbed via a trade exception in a three-team trade that also landed the Celtics a future first-round pick and center Tyler Zeller.

Avery Bradley was re-signed, and the team agreed to terms with free agent wing Evan Turner. Experienced veterans such as Jerryd Bayless and Kris Humphries were not brought back in free agency.

All in all, after some minor tweaks, the vast majority of a 25-win team will be returning next season, making it clear that another year of rebuilding is on the horizon in Boston.

Jessica Hill/Associated Press

Should Ainge’s inability to acquire some impact players and makeover Boston’s roster this offseason be considered a failure on his part? Or was staying the steady course with the team’s rebuild a wise choice?

When you look at the complexion of the Eastern Conference right now, it’s hard to argue that the patient play was not the right one.

The truth is that when the Celtics fell out of the Love derby, there just didn’t appear to be any other impact players available via trade who could turn this team around in a hurry. Boston’s salary-cap situation also made the possibility of bringing aboard any top-notch free agents a pipe dream without the assistance of a sign-and-trade.

Instead of sacrificing assets in such a scenario, Ainge elected to stand pat and focus on the long term. He maintained his extensive collection of future first-round draft picks and expanded his talented young core by drafting guard Marcus Smart and swingman James Young.

Perhaps most importantly, Ainge’s offseason sustained the flexibility he has in shaping this team’s future down the road. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Celtics could have significant salary-cap space next summer, which may not have been the case had they added some veteran help via trade.

With no costly long-term additions on the books from this summer, Ainge has a wide array of options at his disposal to maneuver with as he continues to rebuild. And by adding to his impressive arsenal of draft picks and young talent this offseason, Ainge has put himself in a better position to land a major piece if one becomes available via trade this season.

Boston’s offseason wasn’t perfect by any means. There are still logjams at multiple positions on the roster that need to be cleared out in the coming months. Ainge’s inability to find value in a trade for older members of the roster such as Brandon Bass, who probably won’t be around for the next part of the rebuild, is disappointing.

Overall though, Ainge stayed true to his word of focusing on trying to win for the long haul by making a number of low-risk moves that don’t damage the team’s rebuilding prospects down the road. Given the lackluster hand the team was dealt this offseason, Ainge did the best he could with it.

Grade: B  

All salary information provided by Shamsports.com unless otherwise noted.


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