The Boston Celtics have gone through several point guards in the last few years. Blame has shifted from player to team and back depending on the name on the jersey. But the constant in all of it is Danny Ainge, the architect of this latest iteration of the Celtics. He also built the last Celtics team to win a championship.
What’s Been the Point of the Celtics Shuffle at Lead Guard?
Living in the Past
That was 13 years ago, though. Many of Ainge’s moves since then have left the roster stale and lacking several key elements contenders often possess.
Much of the talk has been over their lack of a true interior presence; hence talks of LaMarcus Aldridge when he came available.
But why are they getting a pass (no pun intended) on screwing up their point guard position time and time again?
Their trade for Kyrie Irving was met with mixed reactions but, at least inside the building, they thought it would put them over the top.
Ainge says he “has no regrets” over the trade but the locker room issues it brought can’t have been worth it. Especially after Irving walked in free agency just two years later.
But Ainge wasn’t content so he traded for Kemba Walker. The former UConn star had been toiling away down in Charlotte but had shown to be a big shot taker (and maker).
It seemed to many like the perfect pivot from Irving.
So Close, Yet So Far
And, to be honest, Year 1 felt like that might be the case. The Cs won 48 games in a shortened season; one less than the year prior with a full 82-game schedule.
But now they’re .500 and sitting seventh in the East. They lack an identity and are close to out of answers.
The Irving trade was only made after they struck out on Jimmy Butler and Paul George and cost them one of the precious draft picks that Ainge covets.
Walker was really only a target after they missed on Anthony Davis.
Acquiring Walker also cost them Terry Rozier who had been with the team since the IT era. Hornets owner Michael Jordan was criticized for Charlotte not extending a contract to Walker and then trading him for Rozier, who had some rough games in the postseason.
Ainge was called a “thief” by at least one Cavs player after the pieces they got back flopped.
One Team’s Trash
Fast forward and Rozier is averaging more points, more efficient from the floor and deep, and is still giving great effort on the boards. All while being just 1.3 assists behind Walker who has dealt with injuries all year. Oh, his team is better too.
We don’t have to talk about what Irving is doing with the loaded Brooklyn Nets. But we will note the difference in opinions of Irving in a different situation.
The mercurial guard was looked at as a team killer who had ruined his best shot at another ring and a team with what was supposed to be a great locker room culture.
This really all started with that trade for Irving. Giving up on Isaiah Thomas after he played through his sister’s death and a devastating hip injury for whom Bomani Jones called “taller Isaiah Thomas” seems like a good way to ensure sports karma comes for you.
Boston is one of the storied franchises in the NBA. That causes those in charge to make some drastic moves oftentimes in an effort to maintain that aura.
Ainge appears to have been a victim of that but also of “buying his own hype” and holding onto his draft capital for too long. Holding out for Butler, Davis, and George meant passing on other, more attainable, assets.
Celtics Missing the Point (Guard)
Saying you’re going all in for a player is great until you miss and you have to smooth it over with the guys you were going to jettison.
Ainge also hasn’t draft particularly well with the picks he held onto. It hasn’t been bad. Moreso hit-or-miss. And there’s been nothing in the way of a game-changer.
Granted, they haven’t held a pick higher than 14th overall since back-to-back third-overall selections brought Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Not flipping those picks meant he had to hit home runs and what he got was a couple of doubles and a single.
A flawed roster, a coach on the public opinion hot seat, and not many options to go in either direction. The Celtics have some very important building blocks for a title contender.
But, due to their in-between handling of the roster and draft picks, it’s a roster in neutral without many paths forward.
And at the top of it all is Ainge. Once the envy of NBA front offices for his stockpiling of draft picks after robbing the Nets. Now he looks like a man either without a plan.
Or one with multiple plans and he can’t decide which he likes best.