After another close-but-yet-so-far postseason for the Boston Celtics, losing in the Conference Finals for the third time in four years, the expectations for General Manager Danny Ainge have never been higher. His inconsistent loyalty to players and insistence on standing pat during the regular season trade deadline has been questioned. This was the offseason where that narrative needed to be laid to rest. Could the legend of “Trader Danny” return?
Boston Celtics Free Agency Recap
The main issues with the Boston Celtics to anyone who saw them during the season and bubble-postseason run consisted of two key problems. First, they lacked a viable big man. Second, they lacked offensive production off the bench. Addressing the center position was to be priority number one. Enter the Gordon Hayward situation.
Hayward disappointed in his return in the playoffs after missing almost all of the first two rounds due to injury. However, he had his best season in a Celtics uniform. His role was continuously called into question with the emergence of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and as the offseason wore on, momentum was gaining for him to be traded out of Boston. The ideal situation was laid out: Gordon Hayward and likely some young talent/draft picks to the Indiana Pacers for Myles Turner and an additional player.
Turner struggled to gain a consistent spot with Indiana this year due to the logjam of he and Domantas Sabonis inside, so rumors of his departure from the Pacers began even before the coronavirus stoppage. As for Hayward, Indiana offered him a larger role than what he could expect in Boston. However, Ainge reportedly wanted more.
Instead of the Pacers’ offer of Myles Turner and Doug McDermott, Danny Ainge was supposedly pressing for Turner and either Victor Oladipo or T.J. Warren. The deal, unsurprisingly, fell through. Whether all these reported negotiations even happened or not, all Indiana players mentioned remain unmoved. Additionally, Gordon Hayward is a Charlotte Hornet and the Celtics received nothing in return for his departure. With that worst-case-scenario coming to fruition for Boston, it was time for them to hit the open market to look for their solutions.
Filling Out the Bench
Drafting Aaron Nesmith filled the bench shooting need, but with Enes Kanter and Brad Wanamaker on their way out, those positions needed to be replaced. As maligned as Brad Wanamaker was by fans during his tenure in Boston, the man played an important role in the postseason, even outperforming Kemba Walker some nights. To replace him, Boston signed Jeff Teague to a one-year, $2.5 million deal. A veteran presence who can run pure point off the bench: a solid acquisition.
Kanter, whose offensive and rebounding production was welcomed but whose defense left much to be desired had to be replaced. Boston opted for the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Tristan Thompson. He signed a two-year, $19 million deal. He may be limited offensively, but his defensive prowess and playoff experience is something Boston has desperately lacked from the center position. After whiffing on Myles Turner, Danny Ainge got one of the next best options for about half the price.
Jayson Tatum finalized a five-year, $163 million extension that could reach as high as $193 million. Subsequently, Boston is likely done with major moves ahead of the season starting. Clearly, the timetable has officially been set. Tatum, Brown, and Walker will be in Boston together for at least another three years. Additionally, Brown and Tatum elevate that to at least another four years. Obviously, there was a lack of high-profile, paradigm-shifting moves by the Celtics this offseason. However, Boston still remains among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
Instead of going for splash acquisitions, Danny Ainge and the rest of the organization will once again bank on player development. This strategy has granted three Eastern Conference Finals trips in four years. However, Boston fans are all too familiar with what-ifs regarding big names: almost signing Kevin Durant, almost trading for Paul George, almost trading for Kawhi Leonard. Now letting Hayward walk for nothing unless a late sign-and-trade happens. If Boston truly believes it has its stars, the clock is ticking. The East is only getting stronger.
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