Danny Ainge has done a lot to rebuild this team quickly after tearing down the new Big Three era Celtics. For Boston, it’s become a sort of assembly line effect…
- Acquire a player somehow
- Have said player increase his value immensely as a player for Brad Stevens
- Trade said player for an actually great player
- Watch his trade partner crash and burn to the ground like a basketball Hindenburg.
The latest iteration of this was the Avery Bradley to Detroit trade, in which the Celtics got Marcus Morris and enough cap relief to sign Gordon Hayward.
Morris has been iffy with some flashes of really good play. He infuriates people sometimes and others he shows real value for the 2nd unit. Regardless, the ability to sign Hayward was the biggest win in that trade and the Celtics, despite the injury, are still a top seed with the massive promise of adding All Star wing down the line.. possibly at some point in the playoffs.
Detroit, meanwhile, is 22-26 and three games behind 8th-seed Philadelphia. Injuries have derailed their season and now, faced with missing the playoffs again, they are starting to shop valuable assets like Avery Bradley
The Pistons have lost eight straight games and 12 of their past 15 since point guard Reggie Jackson was lost with an ankle injury.
Bradley could command in the $20 million annual range in free agency.
The Pistons acquired Bradley in a July trade with the Boston Celtics with hopes of ultimately signing him to a long-term deal this summer. Now, the Pistons are searching for a return on Bradley prior to the possibility of losing him without compensation in free agency, league sources said.
At the time of the trade, people saw it as the rare loss for Ainge, who was forced into making a lopsided deal to clear cap space for Hayward. I thought, considering the circumstances, Ainge got all he could and, ultimately, both teams would be winners here.
Instead, Bradley is putting up his worst shooting numbers since becoming a regular starter in the 2012-13 season. His true shooting percentage is more than five points off last year’s production and two points below his career average. His defensive rating is currently the worse he’s ever posted and his offensive rating is currently at the third lowest point of his career.
Turns out, Detroit is just the latest victim of the Ainge curse.
Teams doing business with Ainge are faring so poorly that I’m starting to wonder if they’re going to be scared away from doing business with the Celtics.
Let’s look at all the recent examples:
- The Celtics gave up Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn pick for Kyrie Irving. Kyrie is having a slightly more efficient version of his usual season, while Crowder has crawled into a shooting shell while routinely getting roasted on defense. Isaiah is coming off the hip injury but the constant consternation over sub par regular season has engulfed Thomas into ridiculous controversies where has to defend his shot selection to reporters throwing anonymous teammate complaints in his face. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets are bad but not abjectly horrible. If a couple of teams above them start to tank, their pick could potentially fall all the way out of the top 10… hardly the franchise-changing draft pick Cleveland was hoping for.
- The Celtics gave up the #1 overall pick for Philadelphia’s #3 overall pick and the LA Lakers 2018 pick (protected 2-5) or the better of Sacramento’s or Philly’s pick next season (#1 protected). The Celtics got Jayson Tatum who, while struggling lately, has shown he’s a potential star player and long-time franchise cornerstone. Philly selected Markelle Fultz, whose shot is broken and who has only played in four games this season. Meanwhile, the Lakers are five games out of the bottom spot in the NBA and 2.5 from 5th-worst. The Kings seem to be sellers at the deadline, so their prospects for the future seem bleak.
- In a 2015 three-team deal, the Celtics gave up Marcus Thornton, Tayshaun Prince, and a 1st round pick (which became Skal Labissier) in a deal that got them Isaiah Thomas, Gigi Datome, and Jonas Jerebko. Phoenix and Sacramento are currently a combined 32-67 while Boston is 35-15. Labissier is the subject of trade rumors in Sacramento, both teams have had front-office and coaching shakeups, while Boston rode Isaiah Thomas to the playoffs in his first season and the Conference Finals in his second. As we all now, he’s since been flipped to Cleveland where he’s trying to stay afloat in a swamp of discontent.
- In a 2015 three-team deal, the Celtics sent Jeff Green to Memphis for a 1st round pick and Tayshaun Prince. Prince was flipped in the Thomas deal and Jeff Green remained Jeff Green, doing just enough to entice Grizzlies fans but never enough to help the Grit n’ Grind Grizz get to the promised land. Boston, meanwhile, got a first round pick that could convey over the next few years and, thanks to the timing of Memphis’ incompetence, could become a very, very good pick
- In 2014, Ainge sent Rajon Rondo to Dallas for Crowder, Jameer Nelson, Brandan Wright and a pick. Rondo, then potentially in line for a big contract, sulked his way through a disastrous half season for the Mavericks in which the team made up an injury to jettison him. Crowder, meanwhile, became a 3-and-D guy whose value peaked so high that he was a key piece to the Kyrie Irving deal. As noted earlier, he’s having a horrible season in Cleveland. Oh, and that pick became Guerschon Yabusele… which might be the biggest win out of all of this.
These aren’t just trade victories for Ainge… these are poison darts thrown into the hearts of opposing teams. The Celtics have almost universally won these deals while the teams acquiring the players have cratered… and I didn’t even mention the trade that started this all: Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn.
Beyond this, the Celtics have “Stevensed” the league into thinking Boston role players are on the verge of busting out, only to learn that Brad Stevens has extracted every last drop of talent from said players. Kelly Olynyk is having a fine year in Miami, but he’s not much better than he was in Boston. And how much do you think Portland regrets giving Evan Turner 4-years/$70 million?
At some point, teams have to look at how Boston players are doing and wonder if they’re just getting an extra bump from playing for Brad Stevens. In the end, these GM’s have to do what they think is best for their teams, and trading with Boston might be what they think is best..
But Detroit has become another in the long line of trade victims, suffering through complete misfortune with a player with previously high value suddenly contributing much less than he has in the past. I still love Bradley and I still think he can make life hell for opposing guards…
… but… the numbers are what they are. His struggles a real. Just like those of former Celtics all over the league.