The Boston Celtics may not be having the start to the season they envisioned, but this transition period should have been anticipated, changing nothing about the outlook of this core. Keep in mind, Brad Stevens did not share the same level of optimism before the season started.
The Celtics are in a spot where they might be the biggest threat to the Warriors this season, while having arguably the best collection of young talent. This rebuild has been masterful and the team explored any option available to get another edge, and even the most optimistic fans could not have predicted something this special.
There may have been other avenues to get a similar rebuild, but this team is unrecognizable if you take away the work the front office did with trades. The Celtics found the players they believe they can win with, and they are a part of a franchise that has seen a lot of success with those kind of trades.
Of course, it all started with Bill Russell. The Celtics had the guy they knew they needed to get, and they made the necessary sacrifice to get him. With this current core, Ainge may not have traded for a Russell, but he made the move that made his team better, by getting the extra pick, while taking their top player in the draft in Jayson Tatum.
That original trade ignited the greatest dynasty in sports, and it was just the beginning of masterful work by a front office that is unparalleled.
Moving onto the next dynasty, Larry Bird was everything to the team, but Kevin McHale was the heart and soul in a way no one else can replace, establishing the kind of toughness that cam to define the team and overcome a Lakers roster that simply had too much talent to deal with. McHale may only be the best sixth man of all time, but trading for him helped shape the qualities that this franchise continues to look for in cornerstone players.
The Celtics realized they were missing something, and went out to get the player that would bring the team together in a special way. With this team, trading for Kyrie Irving may not have altered the culture of the team the way McHale did, but it certainly redefined the identity of how the team needs to play to win in a league that has changed in many ways.
Then you get to their most recent championship, where Ainge rattled the NBA by getting Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. The Celtics brought in the players they knew could do what they were looking for, and that is the same kind of thing Ainge was looking for by getting Irving.
Garnett, Russell and McHale embodied everything the Celtics wanted to look for. Talent is always a top priority, but it is not a fluke that the Celtics passed on multiple opportunities to trade for stars, before settling on a more expensive Irving.
Players like Jimmy Butler and Paul Goerge were both within reach for the Celtics, but the raw talent was not the only thing considered, making sure they believe in the player they are sacrificing a chunk of the franchise for.
The Celtics do not make the blockbuster trades without having a long term plan, with a player that will help maintain the kind of mentality that brings out unbearable energy and a ferocious defensive effort.
Irving will not have the same kind of leadership role, but he is buying into Brad Stevens, and making sure the man at the helm is instilling the very mentality that has lead to so many rings and numbers in the rafters.
With this core, the Celtics stayed true to their history by not holding onto a number one pick, getting the player they believed in, no matter how badly it might be dissected and scrutinized.
What is so special about this core, however, is all the minor trades. It is easy to pinpoint the block buster trades that have defined generations of legacies for the Celtics, but it will always be part of a bigger picture, often involving many smaller moves.
The Celtics showed no fear in disassembling their prized championship team and made sure to wait and get the players that could grow with a special core, by finding value in places no one would even think of. You cannot forget the initial Isaiah Thomas trade, or creating something special with a throw in like Jae Crowder.
This Celtics roster could not be the same without carefully calculated trading, and the moves he made are some of the most impressive we have ever seen. Never forget, however, that this is a part of the history and tradition of the Celtics, making sure they have an idea of what kind of players and leaders can be brought in by a trade and become a staple of the franchise.
There is a reason the Celtics have the most championships in the NBA, and it has less to do with individual talent than any other franchise. The Celtics have continually found the players that will put in the work and make sure every player on the court is buying into the same vision and making all necessary sacrifices
The talent always needs to be there, but a proper rebuild will never be executed without being aware of what kind of team you are assembling and what kind of players will commit and sacrifice the way McHale, Garnett and Russell.
By making sure the only priority that carries any weight is getting more out of the team, rather than the individual players, it did not matter it if was Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson or Kobe Bryant, the Celtics were going to find a way to win. Now we wait and see if this core is ready to overcome any kind of obstacle, including the most feared collection of talent of all time.