By: Kenny Doyle
The Thunder shocked most of the NBA world last night when they came out of nowhere to trade for Paul George just hours before free agency officially got underway. The Thunder were completely under the radar as a candidate to acquire the coveted now former Pacer, but somehow Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis got it done for OKC, and the one team that could offer the most assets than anyone else, the Celtics, couldn’t top that low ball offer from the Thunder. Now we have to wonder, what do they do if they miss out of Hayward? Where do they go from there?
Missing on George led many Celtics fans and NBA fans alike to question the Celtics leadership and why they couldn’t get this deal done. In particular, Danny Ainge comes out looking really poorly. It’s looking more and more like the trade out of #1 had less to do with Markelle Fultz and more to do with the Celtics convinced they were getting Paul George. It appears that even led to them letting Minnesota peacefully trade for Jimmy Butler without contest. The reports before the draft were that Ainge made the trade so far before draft day to line up another deal. Now we know that deal was Paul George. If Ainge was dealing that pick for George, or just doing the trade to get another asset in next year’s LAL pick to trade for George, Danny whiffed bigger on this non-trade than any GM has before.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported in a story I quoted in my previous article that “the Pacers may unwilling to wait until the start of July free agency on Boston’s timetable”. It looks like that held more than true. The Pacers wanted to get this deal done before the start of free agency. “Why?” is a mystery to everyone, as no one has reported on why this was the case. That begs the question, did the Pacers leave a better offer on the table from the Celtics so they could trade George before midnight last night? And if so, why? If this were to be the case, Danny Ainge might have been told that by the Pacers and decided to call their bluff and lost. At least one GM told Boston grown ESPN personality Ryen Russillo that Indiana had a better deal on the table for George.
You have to assume the Bostonian Russillo’s GM source has to be Ainge. If the Celtics don’t sign Gordon Hayward this offseason, things get frightening for the team's future. Just on paper, the Celtics have already fallen to the 6th or 7th best roster in the NBA. There’s no backup plan for them now. Griffin and George are off the table. Isaiah, Smart, and Bradley are all FA’s next offseason and are due for MASSIVE pay raises. Anything that was going to get done needed to get done this offseason. The Celtics aren’t anything special right now. The team as currently constructed can’t beat the Cavs. The offseason had such high hopes going into it, and so far it’s left Celtics fans feeling nothing but disappointment. In the NBA, if you’re not competing for a championship that’s the only other good option. Are the Celtics championship contenders next year without Hayward? Would they be better off starting playing Brown and Tatum next season and working harder to grow their young core? If the alternative is running back the same team for the next 3, 4, or 5 years that just lost to the Cavaliers in 5 games, that’s not going to cut it. I’m not going to say the Celtics should trade Isaiah Thomas and Bradley for draft picks, but if you’re not winning competing for a title in the NBA, it’s not worth it being going into the season knowing the best you can do is 4th place.
For at least the next handful of days, Danny Ainge will be completely bashed by anyone talking basketball with a microphone in their face. Ainge has come up short on Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, and now Blake Griffin and Paul George. He did sign Al Horford, but out of all the players just listen him and Blake Griffin are the only ones who didn’t make last year’s All-Star team, and Griffin likely would have if healthy. Can Ainge no longer net the big fish? Even if that’s not the case, if he misses out on Gordon Hayward that’s all you’re going to hear.
Photo: (SB Nation)