Best of the Decade: Danny Ainge's Top 10 Celtics trades
BOSTON -- You don’t earn the nickname “Trader Danny” by sitting around and doing little when it comes to making deals.
The current patriarch of the Celtics franchise, Danny Ainge, has engineered more than his share of trades through the years.
And while the results from those deals have varied, the one constant has been the trades making an impact.
Here we take a look at Ainge’s top 10 trades of this decade:
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10. December 18, 2014
Traded Dwight Powell and Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks for Jameer Nelson, Brandon Wright, Jae Crowder, a 2016 first-round pick (Guerschon Yabusele wound up being the player selected) and a 2016 second-round pick (Demetrius Jackson). In addition, the Celtics received a $13 million trade exception.
A good trade because… When the trade was made, much of the attention was paid to Rondo and understandably so with him being the only All-Star involved. In time, it was the trade’s throw-in, Jae Crowder, who emerged as a solid contributor to the Celtics returning to the postseason. The emergence of Crowder was one of the keys to the Celtics trading for Kyrie Irving years later.
9. June 25, 2013
Traded Doc Rivers (coach) to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2015 first-round draft pick (R.J. Hunter).
A good trade because… It’s unusual for coaches to be traded in the NBA, but the Celtics were on the cusp of yet another rebuild and Rivers wanted no part of that, but still wanted to remain in coaching. The Clippers offered the perfect compromise; Rivers would stay in the game and the Celtics would get another first-round pick. The selection wound up being R.J. Hunter, who has had a pair of stints with Boston since being selected by the Celtics with the 28th overall pick in 2015. Hunter has been an on-the-NBA-fringe journeyman since, never showing the kind of elite long-range shooting many envisioned. Still, getting a first-round pick out of the deal, even if it didn’t work out as well, made this trade a good one for Ainge and the Celtics.
8. July 20, 2012
As part of a three-team trade, the Celtics traded Sasha Pavlović to the Portland Trail Blazers, and JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Sean Williams and a 2013 second-round pick (Álex Abrines was later selected) to the Houston Rockets; the Rockets traded Courtney Lee to the Celtics; and the Trail Blazers traded Jon Diebler to the Rockets.
A good trade because… the Celtics wound up with the best player in the deal, Courtney Lee. He was a Celtic for 108 games, shooting 47.1 percent from the field, which was his best shooting percentage for any of his eight NBA teams - Orlando, New Jersey (now Brooklyn), Houston, Boston, Memphis, Charlotte, New York and Dallas).
7. July 6, 2019
Traded Terry Rozier and a 2020 second-round pick to the Charlotte Hornets for Kemba Walker and a top-53 protected 2020 second-round pick. (that pick is Brooklyn or New York’s, whichever is least favorable.)
A good trade because… Both teams got what they wanted. The Celtics wanted an All-Star replacement at the point with Kyrie Irving’s departure to Brooklyn, and the Hornets are rebuilding and wanted to do so with a promising young playmaker. It’s still too early to know how this will pan out for Boston, but to lose a player such as Irving to free agency and replace him with Walker by trading Rozier, who wasn’t all that keen about returning, is a good haul on paper.
6. December 12, 2011
Traded Glen Davis and Von Wafer to the Orlando Magic for Brandon Bass.
A good trade because… the Celtics moved on from a player that they had gotten all they could out of (Davis), and added an under-rated player in Bass with lots of upside and frankly, was a better fit with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Boston’ frontcourt. Bass’ mid-range shooting game was impressive as he appeared in 304 games for Boston (224 starts) while averaging 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds while shooting 48.9 percent from the field.
5. June 19, 2017
Traded a 2017 first-round pick (Markelle Fultz) to the Philadelphia 76ers for a 2017 first-round pick (Jayson Tatum) and a 2019 first-round draft pick (Romeo Langford).
A good trade because… Boston got the player it wanted all along and added a first-round pick on top of that. As far as the Tatum vs Fultz comparison, it’s not even close. Tatum is trending towards being an All-Star for one of the surprising teams in this still-young NBA season. Fultz has already been traded twice, and now finds himself trying to stick in the rotation for an Orlando team that’ll be fighting for a playoff berth this season. While the early returns on Romeo Langford aren’t great, the Celtics are in no rush to get him on the floor this season.
4. June 27, 2013
Traded Lucas Nogueira, a 2014 second-round pick (Cleanthony Early was later selected) and a 2014 second-round pick (Russ Smith was later selected) to the Dallas Mavericks for Kelly Olynyk.
A good trade because… Olynyk delivered a franchise-altering performance in the second round of the 2017 playoffs against Washington. Olynyk scored 26 points in just 28 minutes to lift Boston into the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in the Brad Stevens Era. Still, it’s tough for Celtics fans to not grimace a little bit in Boston taking Olynyk instead of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was selected two picks later. But the ripple effect of this deal on the Celtics franchise can’t be ignored. If not for Kelly Olynyk’s 26-point performance in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Washington, there’s no telling how big a setback that would have been for Boston. Or for that matter, how that game was the beginning of the Wizards' spiral into basketball oblivion that they still call home today. That could just as easily wound up being the Celtics’ fate if not for that victory.
3. July 12, 2013
Traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, D.J. White, a 2017 first-round pick (Kyle Kuzma) and a 2017 second-round pick (Sasha Vezenkov) to the Brooklyn Nets for Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, a 2014 first-round pick (James Young), a 2016 first-round pick (Jaylen Brown), a 2017 first-round pick (Markelle Fultz) and a 2018 first-round pick (Collin Sexton was later selected by Cleveland as part of the Kyrie Irving trade).
A good trade because… Boston got significant value for players who were well past their prime. The window for Boston to win a title with that group, was over. Rather than watch them age gracefully and leave the game, Ainge was able to acquire high draft picks without the Celtics becoming a lottery team in the process. That, in turn, helped speed up the process for Boston to get back to being one of the better teams in the East with a roster that should allow for them to be among the better teams in the East for years to come.
2. August 30, 2017
Traded Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Ante Žižić, a 2018 first-round pick (Collin Sexton) and a 2020 second-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving.
A good trade because… It freed up the Celtics (on paper at least) from being a very good team, into briefly being a legit title contender. It has been well-documented how this trade didn’t have the impact or overall effect that Celtics fans and the team were hoping for. But here’s the thing, that word, "hope," was enhanced greatly by this trade. It wasn’t until the Celtics acquired Irving that Boston seemed to be on the cusp of another title run. It didn’t work out as planned, obviously. But the trade itself was one of the best of this decade for the Celtics because it provided legitimate, flesh-and-blood hope of basketball prosperity at the highest level. which was not going to happen if not for this deal.
1. February 19, 2015
As part of a three-team trade, the Celtics traded Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first-round pick (Skal Labissière) to the Phoenix Suns, who traded Isaiah Thomas to the Celtics; Boston also traded Tayshaun Prince to the Detroit Pistons, who traded Gigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko to the Celtics.
A good trade because… This trade dramatically changed the culture along with the calculus on how long it would take for the Celtics to be more than just a team that could get to the playoffs. Isaiah Thomas would garner a pair of All-Star selections in Boston, playing with a gritty, us-versus-the-world brand of basketball that would ingratiate him with the Celtics fan base. They weren’t the best team on the floor, but they won more than not and, while doing so, were enjoyable to watch. This team hasn’t won a title since 2008, but acquiring Thomas gave them some of the pieces to move closer towards that end. Meanwhile, fans have a chance to enjoy this journey in part because of the culture created following the end of the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett Era. And while there have been many who have contributed, Thomas’ play and ability to connect both with his teammates and the fanbase, stands out for all the right reasons while providing a major boon to the Celtics' success and organizational culture as a whole.