Is Danny Ainge a Genius or Just Lucky?

Player 2012/2013 2013/2014 2014/2015 2015/2016 2016/2017 2017/2018 Total
Paul Pierce $16,790,345 $15,333,334 N/A N/A N/A N/A $32,123,679
Kevin Garnett $11,566,265 $12,433,735 $12,000,000 N/A N/A N/A $36,000,000
Rajon Rondo $11,000,000 $11,954,545 $12,909,091 N/A N/A N/A $35,863,636
Jeff Green $8,385,000 $8,965,000 $9,445,000 $9,445,000 N/A N/A $36,240,000
Brandon Bass $6,000,000 $6,450,000 $6,900,000 N/A N/A N/A $19,350,000
Courtney Lee $5,000,000 $5,225,000 $5,450,000 $5,675,000 N/A N/A $21,350,000
Jason Terry $5,000,000 $5,225,000 $5,450,000 N/A N/A N/A $15,675,000
Avery Bradley $1,630,800 $2,511,432 $3,581,302 N/A N/A N/A $4,142,232
Jared Sullinger $1,306,920 $1,365,720 $1,424,520 $2,269,260 $3,270,004 N/A $6,366,420
Fab Melo $1,254,720 $1,311,240 $1,367,640 $2,249,767 $3,257,664 N/A $6,183,367
Jason Collins $854,389 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A $854,389
Keyon Dooling $854,389 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A $854,389
Chris Wilcox $854,389 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A $854,389
Dionte Christmas $473,604 $788,872 $1,115,243 N/A N/A N/A $1,262,476
Kris Joseph $473,604 $788,872 $1,115,243 N/A N/A N/A $1,262,476
Jamar Smith $473,604 $788,872 $1,115,243 N/A N/A N/A1,262,476

Close your eyes, and move yourself back in time. It's December 29, 2011. What are you thinking? If you are not sure, let me help out. According to one of the local fish wraps:

The Boston Celtics are 0-3, and looked uninterested and exhausted in Wednesday's stunning 97-78 loss to the rebuilding Hornets in New Orleans. The defeat exposed several critical differences between the old Celtics of three years ago and these old Celtics now. Opponents are hardly intimidated by the green jerseys or the All-Stars who wear them. The Hornets viewed Wednesday not as an opportunity to upset the mighty Celtics but as simply a chance to win their home opener in front of fans apprehensive about the post-Chris Paul era.

What was I thinking?

I'll let Bob Ryan do all the talking for me:

A starting lineup that includes a 33-year-old, a 34-year-old, a 35-year-old, and a 36-year-old? A point guard who commands scant respect as a face-the-basket scoring threat and who is a subpar free throw shooter? A bench that does not have a single player whose job description on his income tax form reads "Drop-dead jump shooter"? In the abstract, such a team would be given little chance of being so much as a .500 team, let alone a championship contender.

Now with your eyes closed and in a somewhat agitated state, ask yourself, what are the chances of the Celtics rescuing themselves from this mess without going through another 10 years of futility like they did after Bird retired? If you're being honest, "not great" doesn't quite capture the odds facing Danny Ainge's effort to keep the Celtics in championship contention for the next three to five years.

Garnett's value had to have been at an all-time low. Ray Allen couldn't guard a chair. Paul Pierce was well past his prime. Exactly who were we going to trade and for what? Mired in draft spots 18-25, infusing the roster with talented youth also seemed like a pipe dream. Speaking of dreams, the Garnett Era was thought to be all but O-V-A-H.

Now open your eyes and look at the above chart.

What do you see?

There really is only one appropriate response.

What the f*ck?

If you asked me what outcome would have been desired if Ainge had his druthers over the summer, my answer would have gone something like this.

(A) I'd want a team centered on talented players in their mid to late 20s, the closer to 28 the better, as that is the age typically associated with the first year of your athletic prime; (B) We need an MVP candidate, someone dynamic, a leader. Larry Bird is asking too much. How about a Magic Johnson type?; (C) We need to keep a couple of the Old Fogies, ideally Pierce and Garnett, to play a Hondo-like role circa '74 and '76; (D) We need a freakin' bench. I'm not talking about the makeshift kind of piecing together Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling, and Greg Steimsma. I want a bona fide, identifiable group of players who enjoy playing together, with a bona fide, proven leader who challenges the second unit to kick ass every night; (E) I want a center. It's OK if we stick KG in the post most of the time. But when push comes to shove, I want someone intimidating coming off the bench, someone who can lay a body on Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, and Tim Duncan and make it clear that if they want to get a shot off against the Celtics, it's gonna be a struggle. (F) Last, but certainly not least, I want the young core locked up for at least three years. I want this group to be good right off the bat, but when I'm bored, I want to imagine how good they might be in three years.

That's not much to ask, now is it?

OK. It is. It's a ridiculous, drug-induced fantasy that I would never have dreamed up even back when I drank green kool-aid 24/7.

But somehow Danny Ainge pulled it off. I'm not going to  analyze this move-by-move. What's the point? He pretty much nailed every one of them. Danny Ainge has put us in a position to be in contention for this year and at least two more after that. No one knows how it will turn out. All you can ask for is a realistic opportunity to win.

Which brings me back to my original question.

Is Danny Ainge lucky or is it something more?

When 85-year-old Red Auerbach introduced Ainge as his new GM  in May 2003, the Celtic Patriarch gave us his answer.

"Forget about his work ethic and intelligence," Auerbach said, waving his cigar. "The main thing about Danny Ainge is that he's lucky. With all of his assets and attributes, there's also his luck. "Whether he's playing backgammon or golf, he always seems to win at it, so like I said, you gotta be lucky," he said. "I was lucky. One year, and it was either Sam Jones or (Don) Nelson, we were in the seventh game, and he shoots, and the ball hits the rim, the backboard, rolls all around, and then goes in and we win the game. It made me a helluva coach."


Lex said...

"I tried to get the Celtics to draft A.C. Green," Ainge revealed Tuesday afternoon. "I knew A.C. He was from my hometown. I'm from Oregon, and I had seen him play a lot."

Green, a hard-working, albeit unspectacular forward from Oregon State, was taken by the Lakers with the 23d pick of the 1985 draft. The Celtics, picking 20th, took the flashy guard, Sam Vincent, from Michigan State.

Green went on to play 16 seasons as the league's iron man, appearing in a record 1,192 consecutive games. He won three championships and established himself as one of the NBA's most respected players. Vincent flamed out in two seasons with Boston, and spent seven modest years in the league bouncing around among four teams.

Ainge also liked Texas El-Paso guard Tim Hardaway in the 1989 draft. Former Celtics owner Alan Cohen shared his enthusiasm, but president Red Auerbach took Brigham Young forward Michael Smith with the 13th pick, allowing Golden State to gobble up Hardaway one selection later. Hardaway went on to be a five-time All-Star; Smith was out of the league in three seasons. (The Celtics, incidentally, also drafted Dino Radja that year with the 40th pick.)

"I liked Hardaway," said Ainge, "but I honestly thought Michael Smith would be a good player for Boston, too. I remember one night in Phoenix, he had 18 points in the fourth quarter."

Lex said...


Projected starters age in playoffs

Rondo 27
Bradley 22
Garnett 36
Pierce 35
Bass 27

Other key rotational players

Sullinger 21
Darko 27
Jeff G 27
Courtney L 27
J Terry 35

Average age of starters 29.4
Average age of bench 27.4

Prime age of athletic career 28-32

I'm struggling with the label "old" for this team.

Lex said...

Winning in the playoffs comes down to more than just who has the most stars on their roster.

It comes down to depth and who has the most difference makers who can make a difference when the stakes are high.

The C's roster has as many candidates to be difference makers as does any other team. In fact, I'll be honest, I think they have the most candidates.

Lex said...

I wouldn't be surprised to see a unit of entirely young players outperform the other elite team's starters.

Darko/Sullinger, Sullinger/Bass, Green, Rondo, and Lee

Even if we throw in one Old Fogie, JET, that entire team is comprised of players who are not only young and talented, but weren't even on the roster last year, with the exception of Rondo, who, again, may be vastly improved this year.

bballee said...

The only nit I'd pick is a rebuild more like 2004-8 rather than 1992-forever.

My Young Guns lineup:

Lex said...

That would be an interesting lineup. Three guards, a center, and James Worthy.

I like it.

It is quirky enough where I bet doc likes it too.

Mattwwxk said...
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