By Professor Fred Whitted NORTH CAROLINA (BASN) — The title above...
Has Celtics Returned?
Sometimes, what is not done is as important as what is done. Danny Ainge spent much of the off season looking for the big deal and even went as far as offering the Charlotte Hornets a ton of draft picks for the rights to Justin Winslow, who ended up in Miami. Hornets said no and Ainge afterward admitted that he went too far to make something happen.
Celtics drafted Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter and Jordan Mickey, who have looked good in the summer leagues and the first two preseason games plus they still have Marcus Smart, who looked improved over a solid rookie year and James Young, whose career the jury is still out.
Ainge biggest move may have been trading Gerald Wallace, whose best days have long since been past; for David Lee, who still have enough left in the tank. Both Wallace and Lee was an exchange of contracts but Lee showed in his first two preseason game that he might be a good fit for Brad Stevens’ offense. The Celtics don’t have a super star but they have good players who fit certain roles and a coach who appears to know how to put the piece together.
Boston fans proved patience over the past two years and last year, the Celtics did not tank for a higher draft pick but actually made the playoffs and that was after trading away their two best players, Rajan Rondo and Jeff Green. On the surface, those moves looked like a team tanking but in the case of Rondo, this was case of adding value by subtracting as Rondo was not ready to be part of a rebuilding effort and Celtics actually picked up a quality player in Jae Crowder, who proved to be one of those role players who can do the little things like playing defense, rebound and hit key shots. Crowder helped the Celtic make it to playoff and Rondo never adapted to his new surroundings in Dallas and now he is in Sacramento.
Over the past few years, Celtics have amassed young player and a ton of draft picks, enough to draft a entire separate team. Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger have shown potential but they have yet to fulfill to take that next step but Ainge have managed to obtain quality players including Isiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller, Jonas Jerebko and Evan Turner. All of these players have strengths but there isn’t a Hall of Fame player among them.
As one pundit recently noted, the real superstar maybe Brad Stevens, who showed that a college coach can make the jump to the NBA and many NBA players around the league have noticed. Stevens’ strength is two-fold, first being a student of the game. The second is that he understood his role that he was the coach and Danny Ainge ran the operation. Many college coaches like Rick Pitino who insisted that they not only coach but they run the entire operations. When Pitino coached the Celtics, he was handicapped by the players that General Manger Rick Pitino brought in. Stevens other gift is that he can adjust to the players that Ainge brings in and Ainge reputation as trader Dan is not undeserved. Ainge is always looking for the next big deal that brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2008.
2015 Golden State Warriors, the 2008 Boston Celtics and 2011-2014 Miami Heat showed different way to build a championship team. Warriors showed patience and built through the draft and added role players but this requires a front office that can find talent in the draft and patience to wade through the losing years.
The 2008 Celtics used trades to build their championship team. They were filled with young talent that has yet jelled and they used their young talent to trade for Garnett and Ray Allen to team up with Paul Pierce. The Miami Heats used free agency to entice LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join Dwayne Wade and they went to four straight NBA finals and two championship.
This requires both luck and a front office that can distinguish a free agent who can lead a team to Championship levels or simply just good players who may not be able to justify the high price contract. The Brooklyn Nets attempted to do this with obtaining Joe Johnson and Devon Williams to go with Brooke Lopez plus they added Kevin Garnet and Paul Pierce in 2014 to make one big run for an NBA title. It didn’t work as they didn’t even get to the Eastern conference finals and now Williams, Pierce and Garnett are gone and Nets left with no draft picks for a few more years.
Celtics may have been forced into a rebuilding through the draft as Ainge could not find a trading partner for the big deal, no big free agent wanted to come to Celtics and who knows what 2016 will bring. The two big names, LeBron James and Kevin Durant have many choices including staying put. The Celtics have what they call assets to trade for the right player and they have good players who can make a run in the Eastern conference. Two preseason games don’t make a season but the Celtics tour of Europe shows a team that is maturing.