Quiet Deadline is Nothing New for Ainge

BOSTON – A lot of things happen on the day of the NBA trade deadline. Teams change complexion, players change cities, and millions of dollars move in every which direction throughout the country.

All of these things occur because 30 NBA general managers race against the clock to refine the vision of their franchise for both the future and the present. This is the time to add a weapon for the stretch run or add picks and flexibility for the future.

Danny Ainge has been in both of those seats during his nearly 11 years of running the Celtics. He has done an impressive job of planning for the future and striking when he has the opportunity to create a championship team.

Danny Ainge sits with his hands crossed

Danny Ainge chose not to complete a trade at the 2014 deadline, as he has now done in five of his 11 years as Celtics president of basketball operations.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

In order to accomplish those goals, Ainge has had to make trades that fall on all different levels. We detail each one of those levels below.

Meaningful for Now

These are the moves that every fan wants. Make our team better so that we can win it all this year.

Realistically speaking, only a few teams in the league are in position to make those moves each season. Fortunately for Boston, they were in such a stance from 2008-13.

Boston was a lock to contend for a championship during every season in which Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and, for all but one season, Ray Allen were in town. That’s why Ainge made several deadline deals during that added talent to the Celtics bench.

Ainge made deals in both 2010 (Nate Robinson from the Knicks) and 2013 (Jordan Crawford from the Wizards) to strengthen Boston’s guard rotation for a playoff push. Robinson played a legitimate role in helping the Celtics reach Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, and Crawford filled in nicely for a year while Rajon Rondo recovered from a torn ACL.

It’s rare that a contending team will add a marquee player to its roster at the deadline. Most of those teams, as Ainge has shown, look more to add complementary pieces to their stars who are already in place.

Meaningful for Later

General managers who make trades in this category seek three things: rising players, draft picks and future cap flexibility. Ainge’s deadline dealings in this category have typically been geared toward the first two options.

The most recent deadline deal that Ainge made for the future was acquiring Jeff Green in 2011. Boston viewed Green as a player who could eventually step into the starting small forward spot and he has done so this season, averaging a team-high 16.5 points per game.

Ainge has also taken part in one deadline deal that landed him a critical draft pick. In 2004, Boston helped facilitate a three-team trade that landed Rasheed Wallace in Detroit. The Celtics received Chucky Atkins and Lindsey Hunter in the trade, but the key was their acquisition of a 2004 first-round pick from Detroit.

Who did that pick turn into? Tony Allen, who went on to play a key role in the Celtics winning the 2008 NBA championship and making it to the 2010 NBA Finals.

Roster Spots and Savings

Ah, the least sexy of the deadline moves: the deals made to clear roster spots and salary.

These trades are oftentimes the most common at the deadline. For title contenders, they want to unload players who aren’t in the rotation in order to open up roster spots for players who are bought out. For bottom-dwellers, they want to save their owners some cash.

Ainge has been consistent in completing trades that fall into the first category. In 2009, Ainge sent Patrick O’Bryant to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for a second-round pick. The deal wound up clearing a roster spot, which allowed the Celtics to eventually sign former All-Star Stephon Marbury.

Two years later, Ainge made separate deals with the same end goal in mind. He sent Semih Erden and Luke Harangody to the Cavaliers for a second-round pick, and then he sent Marquis Daniels to the Sacramento Kings for a second-round pick. Those trades cleared three roster spots for the C’s, allowing them to eventually sign sought-after free agents Troy Murphy and Sasha Pavlovic.

Standing Pat

As much as Ainge is known for wheeling and dealing, he has also had some quiet trade deadlines. Five of his 11 deadlines with the Celtics, including two of the last three, have now come and gone without a single deal being made.

Why has this happened so often for Ainge? Well, first of all, he’s a smart man. Secondly, completing a trade in the NBA is easier said than done.

Ainge and his staff will only sign off on a deal if it makes sense for them. The value coming back needs to exceed the value going out, at least from their vantage point. Likewise, the other participating parties must feel the same way on their end, and then the deal must meet the league’s rules and requirements. That’s just a few of the many necessary checkmarks.

It’s always better to do nothing than to do something you’ll regret. That’s why Ainge has stood pat at the deadline on a handful of occasions.