How Close did Danny Ainge REALLY Come to Breaking Up the Big 3

Do you think Ainge uses ESPN's Trade Machine?

Breaking news today, according to our friends over at RealGM, there are new rumors of how close Danny Ainge really came to breaking up the Boston Three-Party. According to reports, at the trade deadline, Ainge agreed to trade Ray “Jesus Shuttlesworth” Allen to the Memphis Grizzlies for young swingman O.J. Mayo and a draft pick. It’s been widely reported that Ainge had also arranged a deal with the New Jersey Nets that would have sent the C’s 2nd-All Time scorer for backup C Mehmet Okur and a top-3 protected lottery pick, only for the Nets to trade the same package to Portland for SF/PF Gerald Wallace (5 years younger than Pierce). With the recent surge by the aging veteran Celtics, obviously these two trades would have knocked them out of strong playoff contention in the East. These trades would have further capped the scoring potential, and would have set off a fire storm of criticism towards the GM who’s famously claimed that if he were the GM of the Celtics in the late 80s, he would have traded Bird, McHale and anyone else if the deal were right.

A Grizzly? OJ Mayo a Celtic?

However, with the Celtics struggling at the time, would it really have been such a terrible idea to begin reloading for the future around Rondo and young SG Avery Bradley? Ainge even went as far as having Doc tell Ray he was traded, to only rescind the news 20 minutes later. This would have dramatically altered the outlook of the East playoff picture, and potentially the West. While the Celtics unload to reload for the future, they may have still been able to hang onto a 7th or 8th seed with the current state of the East. The Grizzlies would have dramatically improved their team shooting, but their bench would have taken a massive hit with Tony Allen coming off the bench. I’m not sure who would be their bench scoring, would you really put the NBA’s All-Time 3 Point leader off the bench? While Ray is currently coming off Boston’s bench, that has more to do with his injury woes and the emergence of Bradley. If the Nets had pursued this trade over the one they actually accepted from Portland, would it have made any significant difference? Pierce is a huge offensive upgrade over Wallace and would offer key veteran leadership, but I think the Nets still would have been a long shot to sneak into the playoff picture over the Knicks, Bucks, 76ers, or the new-look Celtics.

Let’s take a look at what the Celtics would have had for the 2012 season, assuming they would have received the 6th pick in the 2012 NBA draft:

PG – Rondo

SG – Bradley

SF – Mayo

PF – Bass

C – Andre Drummond/Jared Sullinger

UCONN Freshman Andre Drummond could have been wearing green & white next season in exchange for Pierce

That’s a solid young nucleus for the C’s to build upon. They would have tons of cap space to pursue a max contract free agent. I’m not a NBA Mock Draft Expert, but Drummond may fall due to his inconsistency shown during his freshman season at UCONN and Sullinder would be a solid back up where his limited size wouldn’t be exposed in the notoriously smaller East. Maybe Ainge opts for the best player available and tries to sign a fill in center such as Chris Kaman in the offseason. The 2013 free agent class may be the apple to Ainge’s eye as players such as Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Monta Ellis, David West (whom Ainge tried to bring in this past December), Paul Millsap, former Celtic Al Jefferson, Nikola Pekovic, and Tiago Splitter are available. The Celtics should be a interesting team to watch in the next few seasons as Ainge has proved he’s willing to do anything to this team to improve them.

As a Celtics fan, I’m torn about this trade. My loyalty lies with the team, not the player, and as much as I would hurt to see Pierce playing in Brooklyn for the next two and a half seasons or Ray suiting up in Memphis, I can’t help to think how much those trades would help out the league’s oldest team. With the potential cap space in the upcoming off seasons, the Celtics would be in total rebuilding mode. One problem that cannot be overlooked would be the lack of interest in playing in the city though; Boston remains an undesirable location for most NBA players. While the fans are passionate, the City doesn’t have the appeals of Los Angeles, New York or Miami. Don’t believe me? Name the last big-name free agent to sign with the C’s… Ainge is definitely one of the more risk-taking GM’s in professional sports, and both of these trades would have been highly criticized on the heels of last seasons Perkin’s failure, but one can’t forget that in order to rewarded you must take risks.