By Shawn Dennis
Skepticism towards the positions of both Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens in Boston has been the talk of Bean Town. Ainge has held his GM spot since 2003, the fourth longest tenure as head of basketball operations in the NBA currently. Stevens, surprisingly enough, was hired all the way back in 2013 following the departure of Doc Rivers. Holding an NBA head coaching position is practically a temporary job at this point with there only being 9 teams having the same coach for more than 5 seasons, as of right now. So the question is, should the Celtics be considering ending this impressive streak, light the house on fire, and completely start from scratch with who makes the decisions for the team?
Over the last three seasons or so, maybe more if you consider the incredible playoff run that Isaiah Thomas led them on, the Boston Celtics have been in the conversation for title contention, but are never put on top or truly defined as favorites to win it. Whether that be from a lack of depth on their bench, unfortunate injuries, or simply not being good enough to go all the way, there’s always been excuses or reasons depending on the stature you place them at, of not going the distance.
This season is different. With Jayson Tatum and especially Jaylen Brown playing at an All Star caliber level, the Celtics have to be thinking about going all in and leaving the woes of previous seasons behind them. Likewise, Ainge has the leverage to get another high salary player with the trade exception generously given by Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets with Gordon Hayward leaving town for another max deal. What is Boston waiting for?
There’s a few explanations to help soothe the frustrated Celtics fans that are used to seeing at least one banner being hung after each season in their sports world. One of them being letting time play its part. The draft class of 2003 may be the greatest of all time in the NBA, as it produced LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, and more. There are only a couple of players left in the league that are still around and perhaps two or three seasons from now things will begin to take a turn with the departure of LeBron, who was in eight consecutive NBA finals.
As much as I understand where Ainge is coming from by drafting young guys to build around and have a solid core to stay consistent with, this is not much of a loyal league anymore if it ever was. The super team that’s now taken over in Brooklyn is no joke and the Celtics will more than likely have to face off against them at some point if they have plans of going that far. Who knows if Boston can even get past the Philadelphia 76ers this season after sweeping them last year, nevermind the dangerous Milwaukee Bucks squad with Jrue Holiday controlling things at the one.
Everyone loves consistency, but it gets boring and lackluster when nothing comes from it. The Celtics are a prime example of this, as they’ve only missed the playoffs once since their championship back in 2008, but have only been to the Finals once after that. This season is what determines the fate of what’s to come for this star studded Celtics roster and if someone else needs to take over before the talent here is wasted on always coming up short.
A couple of key things MUST transpire for Ainge to get out of the hot seat and to keep this Celtics team that’s at .500 through 26 games afloat.
Utilizing the trade exception for a scoring big.
This sounds like a broken record to Celtics fans, but their current front court doesn’t cut it to hang with the Sixers, Bucks, or even the Nets as of right now. There is no excuse for Danny Ainge to use for not going out and making a move for a player that can shoot the three and play exceptional defense at the center position, regardless of how difficult it may be to find. Imagine if Boston had offered Christian Wood a contract and immediately put him in the starting line up? Look at the Cleveland Cavaliers, who acquired Andre Drummond for practically nothing.
A myriad of names gets thrown into this predicament that the Celtics have to put themselves in. I’d love to see a trade made for one of these players: John Collins, Julius Randle, JaVale McGee, Hassan Whiteside, or Nikola Vucevic. None of the players mentioned are on a team above .500 nor have a great chance of making the playoffs, so Ainge has even more leverage with what he can offer with future assets.
As long as Ainge manages to keep Brown and Tatum on the roster, I don’t see any damage being done for this team in their future if a trade occurs for the big hole they have down low. If he gets it done and the Celtics flourish into a top three seed again, Ainge will likely be safe for next season. In Stevens’ case, if Ainge stays, so does he.
Making a trade package that includes players like Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford, Tremont Waters, Semi Ojeleye or Javonte Green
Aside from Semi Ojeleye who miraculously scored his career high (24) against the Toronto Raptors on February 11, none of these players are getting worthwhile minutes. I don’t find it fair or worth their time to be stuck on the bench when they can either be playing for a rebuilding team or getting minutes in the G League.
Outside of the starting 5, the Celtics don’t have players that can fill a role coming off the bench when a player gets injured or needs to take a breather mid game. This is what veterans are for and what had brought teams like the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA Finals last season. Looking at both of those teams rosters with experienced veterans like Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, and the list goes on, they had players who know what the playoffs are all about and can produce for their team at any given moment.
The philosophy that Ainge has with the Celtics is great and all, but it’s not going to cut it to bring them to the promised land with players teaming up to make a super team. They should know all about it considering they had one of the best trio’s of all time get them their last championship.
Over the next three weeks or so, one of two outcomes will happen. Either Ainge sits back and trusts who he has on the roster, leading them to yet another disappointing season when the playoffs come around. Or he will get on the phone, make some calls, and see what teams are willing to give up so that this slump will be over.