The Boston Celtics are currently battling the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, but their team would look very different today if general manager Danny Ainge had his way last summer. At the time, rumors were flying that the team was doing everything they could to find a good deal for the third overall pick in the draft, which they ultimately used to select Jaylen Brown.
However, Ainge wasn’t just looking to move that pick, he was also hoping to find another lottery pick, and was using some of the team’s top talent as bait. According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan on Bob Ryan’s podcast, Ainge was willing to give up Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart if it meant adding another lottery pick to his treasure chest:
“Before the draft last year, Danny was trying to get two picks, not just Jaylen Brown,” MacMullan told Ryan. “He was on the phone with everybody from coast to coast, and he was offering everybody. That includes Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas, and anything else they needed to get where he wanted to go. There were no untouchables on that team last year.”
Ainge is known for being very active in trade discussions, and the Celtics had plenty of reason to make a deal, but the feeling was that they wanted to make a win-now move, not trade established pieces for another pick. We don’t know what Ainge’s end game was in his search for another lottery selection, but it certainly would have shifted the NBA landscape. After all, Thomas was named to the second-team All-NBA this season, and Smart just filled in admirably for him in game three of the Celtics’ Eastern Conference Finals series against the Cavs.
This year, the Celtics have the first overall pick, and Ainge is certain to once again be active. Boston doesn’t appear to be able to match the firepower that Cleveland has and again find themselves in a position where a win-now move makes sense, but giving up the top pick in the draft is never easy. This is especially true when a talent like Markelle Fultz is there for the taking.
What will Ainge ultimately do? That’s the question that will be asked all the way up to the NBA Draft on June 22nd.