Boston Herald – The Celtics agreed to terms with Philadelphia [Saturday] night on a trade that will send the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft to the Sixers in exchange for this year’s third overall pick and a protected 2018 Lakers first-round pick.
Hate it. Danny Ainge has been riding the NBA merry-go-round for four years since the window on on the New Big 3 officially closed in 2013. It closed with a bang when Ainge swapped two aging superstars for a boatload of picks from a deeply misguided Brooklyn Nets franchise. Now, with that trade set to pay off like no trade since the the Herschel Walker deal, it’s time for Danny to get off the merry-go-round, push his chips to the middle of the table, and play the cards he’s been holding for four years.
In those four years, Danny has built this team back up from almost the bottom of the league. The Celtics have gone from 25 to 40 to 48 to 53 wins and the number one seed in the East in 2017 over the past four seasons. Danny has meticulously added pieces and can now add a center piece that could push this team over the top for a decade.
Instead, Danny wants to kick the can down the road, swap the pick, and keep riding the merry-go-round to make more deals. This guy loves to deal. He loves to keep people guessing. He loves to make people think he’s playing 4D chess while the rest of the Association is playing checkers. It feels like this team has been chasing this moment and this opportunity since the Len Bias tragedy and instead of going for it, Danny wants to punt. Again.
As I’ve written here before, I’d rather lose by ten points going for the win than lose by one point and look back and say “Goddamn, we should have gone for the win.” Trading this pick and kicking the can further down the road is not going for the win, regardless of what happens in free agency.
The only possible argument for trading this pick is that Danny has studied the current landscape of the league and has made the determination that there is no way to get past Cleveland and/or Golden State in the next few years. The Celtics will still have next year’s Nets pick, and will gain another future pick in this deal (either the Lakers’ 2018 pick or Sacramento’s 2019 pick). Maybe the plan is for the Celtics to really ramp things up before the 2019-2020 season, when LeBron James will be 35 and Steph Curry will be 31. They can’t both go to the Finals another three years in a row, can they? Or maybe the plan is just to have all of the first round picks by the 2030 draft.
Whatever the real plan is, this still feels like a major disappointment. The Celtics have been in a holding pattern for four years, and now it looks like they’ll be in a holding pattern for a few more years. Lots of teams have mortgaged their future to win in the present (Brooklyn Nets, 2013), but this almost feels like the Celtics are mortgaging their present to (maybe) win in the future. I’m sure Danny has a plan here, and I hope it’s a good one. I just don’t see it.