Despite the uncertainty surrounding Kyrie Irving’s future with the Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge is still aggressively pursuing a trade for Anthony Davis. Why would he do that?
In case it wasn’t obvious already, it is very difficult to win a championship in the NBA. There’s so much talent in this league that it can ultimately come down to injuries, a certain bounce on the rim or something as subtle as a missed call in the second quarter. In an imperfect world, near perfection is needed to reach the NBA mountaintop, which is a lesson the Celtics learned three times over this past season.
Consider Danny Ainge’s rebuild starting with the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade to Brooklyn. He’s been nearly flawless with the moves he’s made. Fleecing Phoneix for Isaiah Thomas, trading back to the third pick in 2017 to select Jayson Tatum, acquiring Kyrie Irving for what turned out to be Collin Sexton. Couple that with two max free agents in Al Horford and Gordon Hayward, and you’d have a hard time convincing people that this wasn’t the most impressive turnaround in NBA history.
But as is the theme in this league, one mistake can make it all unravel.
What makes Ainge such a great executive isn’t his ability to win every negotiation, but the willingness to take risks when necessary. Whether it’s the Tatum trade, the Irving trade, or the Pierce and Garnett trade, Ainge isn’t afraid to swing big in order to put the Celtics in the best position to capture Banner 18.
When Kawhi Leonard was available last summer, the Celtics could have reportedly acquired the now two-time Finals MVP for a package centered around Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. Ainge decided the risk of having two players who could walk away this summer (Irving and Leonard) wasn’t worth it after Brown showed All-Star potential in a deep playoff run. Nobody could really blame him at the time, but after seeing what Leonard did with the Raptors this season, it’s hard not to say Ainge made a mistake.
Ainge bet on his young talent and a faster recovery from Hayward than what actually happened. It didn’t pay off and now Irving seems like he’s gone, presenting Ainge with a massive risk in deciding to trade for Anthony Davis or not.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Celtics have been ‘undeterred’ in their pursuit of a Davis trade even though he’s a flight risk next summer. If Kyrie’s future is as uncertain as it seems at the moment, why on earth would the Celtics send New Orleans its best assets for a player whose agent has publicly stated Davis’ intention to leave in 2020?
Maybe because Ainge’s mistake with Kawhi is still on his mind. Players like Davis and Leonard don’t grow on trees. They’re generational players who can turn a season on its head because at the end of the day, you can’t stop those guys from taking over a game. If Ainge believes adding Davis, regardless of Irving’s status with the franchise, will give the Celtics a good chance at a championship next season, he can’t let Davis slip away to the Lakers.
I’m not sure if that’s the case. Giving up what David Griffin seems to want would put the Celtics in a tough position to not only build a contender around Davis, but salvage a promising future if he leaves.
Maybe Ainge will decide it’s not worth it and pivots to a youth movement to build around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Maybe Kyrie really has been messing with all of us and will re-sign once the clock strikes 6 p.m. on June 30th, making Ainge’s decision to trade for Davis an easier one. But don’t expect the Celtics to simply say no thanks to a player as talented as Davis. They’ve been targeting him for a long time.