We can all agree that Danny Ainge, general manager of the Boston Celtics, is scarred by Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, making him hesitant to pull the trigger on big trades. How else to explain his sulky attitude towards their recent personal decisions?
Of course, Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown are true superstars. Brad Stevens is one of the best young coaches in the NBA. The team around that core is still very solid, with key players like Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis (more on that later), Romeo Langford and Robert Williams providing plenty of depth.
But if there’s one thing you can learn from teams like the Celtics, it’s this: Fortune favours the bold.
Honestly, the Celtics and their front office have every right to be cautious. Kyrie Irving is wretched, Gordon Hayward is a victim of bad luck and Kemba Walker is a gaffe. You can’t blame Boston for being careful with these obvious errors.
But the fact remains that the last home team to win a championship, before Kevin Durant, was the Golden State Warriors. Cleveland needed LeBron, Toronto needed Kawhi Leonard and the Lakers were counting on LeBron’s recent transfer and Anthony Davis to win the championship. The Warriors’ recent championships also rely on the undeniable strength of Kevin Durant. Yes, they played a 73-9 season before acquiring KD, but they realized that if a player of his caliber was available, they’d be crazy not to contract him. Put a price on it.
Of course they are paying the price now, as are Cleveland and Toronto. Miami was a mess after LeBron left. Go back to Jordan’s Bulls and Kobe’s Lakers. In the NBA, historical greatness will always come at the expense of maximizing a team’s chances in the near future. That’s the name of the game.
If these Celts are to find their way back to the promised land, they will have to move. That’s exactly the opposite of what they did.
Letting Daniel Theis go with an expiring contract was a drop in the bucket for the Celtics. Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic were in the market. The Wizards have requested offers for Bradley Beal. There were even rumors of Victor Oladipo in Houston, as well as most of the core of Sacramento and Indiana.
For the price of Kemba Walker and some youngsters, the Celtics can get any of these players and get back into the playoffs. The only problem is that they didn’t pinch their nose and take their medicine.
Perhaps in retrospect we will all look at this indecision and calm as a good thing, a vote of confidence in Brown and Tatum. But they’ve been in Boston for a few years now and are in the same (maybe worse) situation as the past few years. With Philadelphia’s assets, at least Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can be considered premier league talents. Can Brown and Tatum do the same for the Celtics?
A combat box is only as good as its use. If it’s not used at all, it’s not a good war chest. The Celtics had a chance to make a big move at this trade deadline. Seeing Brown and Tatum combined with Gordon, Sabonis, Vucevic, Turner or Bagley would be a scary prospect for any team on any given night. It’s an easy upgrade over some of the stars running alongside Marcus Smart, intangible or not.
Instead, the Celtics chose to stagnate in the dreaded middle of the NBA pecking order. Their biggest mistake at the trade deadline this year is accepting a slow death instead of using the dice.
Fortune favours the bold. This does not speak well for the Boston Celtics.
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