This was supposed to be a much different column.
It was supposed to be about the treasure chest of picks gathered by Danny Ainge. How, when he finally unlatched his riches, the Celtics GM would catapult Boston back into contention over the course of a few weeks during the summer.
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Now that Ainge is bringing his pirate ship of lost souls to port (read: Gerald Wallace), I’m no longer sure that’s a guarantee.
Let’s back up. In 2007, Ainge famously traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. That move gave Boston their first championship since 1986 and allowed Celtics fans to mistakenly wax poetic about how their team was built and not bought. James Posey was important. Flo Rida topped the charts. Anything was possiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiible.
Meanwhile, we conveniently forgot about how that championship was delivered to Boston.
In 2006-07, Allen’s Sonics and Garnett’s Timberwolves combined for a total of 61 wins … five fewer than the Celtics had the following season. Restless and ready to win, Ainge scooped up two superstars from terrible teams for young players and picks. The pieces fit.
Boston has had no problem adding assets. Ainge has nine first-round picks in varying kinds of restriction from 2015 to 2018, a third of which are from Billy King and the Brooklyn Nets alone. He’s got loads of cap space, as just eight players are owed guaranteed money in 2015-16.
No, the issue is who will be available if Ainge wants to rebuild his team the way he did before. Just look around the NBA today: How many great players do you see on terrible teams in 2015?
Squads like Utah, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Orlando have already emptied their rosters of any valuable veterans as part of the rebuilding process. The players left with any use are all developing youngsters and recent top draft picks.
Ainge’s sights are therefore narrowed and more complicated. There are no Ray Allens or Kevin Garnetts to be had. The biggest star on an awful team in 2015 is Carmelo Anthony.
Sure, there are others — Roy Hibbert has reportedly been on the block for some time, Rudy Gay seems attainable and virtually every wing player on the Nuggets is for sale.
But do you really want to swap multiple firsts for Hibbert or Gay if you’re Boston?
There are also future free agents to consider. DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph and Omer Asik are all unrestricted come summertime. Thaddeus Young and Goran Dragic could forego their player options. Guys are out there.
Peering down into the murky NBA trade waters, it’s not as though there aren’t pieces to be had from teams for the right price. But the right pieces for the right price are going to be more difficult to obtain than they were in 2007.
Let’s just play around for a moment and say Anthony became the target for Boston. Ainge could package Wallace’s mummified headband in bubble wrap along with some cash. Would Melo go back to the 4, where he’s been most efficient, after losing all that weight last summer? Would he waive his no-trade clause and leave the rebuilding Knicks for another team with no other pieces in place yet?
And, should a recently-injured Anthony, who turns 31 in May, be the player Ainge was saving up all those first-rounders for all this time?
Ainge could try to snag a good player off a playoff team the way the Rockets did in 2012 with James Harden. That would require the Celtics to find a trade partner who believes they can draft well enough to replace value in an effort to smooth out a salary crunch.
Golden State could end up there with Draymond Green. Dragic could put Phoenix in a pinch. It’s not out of the question.
But in any scenario Ainge would need to find at least two mega