Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge will be busy trying to retool his roster this summer for a title run. (Russ Isabella/USA Today Sports)
WALTHAM – The comparisons have already begun with the Celtics this offseason.
Many Celtics fans are hoping for the kind of reset that the franchise underwent in the summer of ’07, when Ainge was able to trade for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and put together a team with just enough youth, veteran talent and depth that resulted in Banner 17 the following June.
With Brooklyn’s lottery pick on the horizon as one of three first-round picks and eight overall in the draft and the prospects of a Kevin Durant in free agency, the potential is there.
Does Ainge see any similarity with summer of ’07?
“I’m not sure we have a Paul Pierce on our roster,” Ainge said. “But I do think we have a lot more things to trade, a lot more things to move.”
This, of course, brings up the next point, is anyone on the current roster untouchable?
“Nobody’s ever untouchable. When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gets traded, you know there’s no such thing as an untouchable in the NBA, or in any league for that matter,” Ainge added. “There’s certain guys that we want to keep and build around and move forward with.”
Ainge acknowledged there are certain players he’d like to keep, a not-so thinly veiled reference to Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder.
Ainge said he doesn’t have a good feel for the pending salary cap (estimated at $89 million next season and $109 the next) and how that might alter trade market.
“I don’t know that. I don’t know. This is new territory for all of us,” Ainge said. “We can all make our predictions but really, I’m not sure. Every team is in a unique situation and a different situation. We’ll be making lots of calls, trying to make trades. Listen, the transcendent players, the good players that you all need to win and to be successful in the NBA, they’re very hard to find and there’s not that many of them. And there’s 30 very qualified teams out there trying to find them all.”
Ainge said the pending explosion of the cap along with the Celtics’ position in the draft makes this year different when looking at free agency and the draft.
“They’re not independent. Some years they’re independent but I think that right now where we are, it’s all combined,” Ainge said. “We have to look at trades, draft and free agency in order to build our team. And with the assets that we have, with the draft, it’s probably one thing.”
If the Celtics land a top-3 pick, there’s the assumption they can add a transcendent player like Brandon Ingram or Ben Simmons.
“I don’t know yet. I don’t know yet. We see guys that have been drafted in the thirties and forties that are transcendent players,” Ainge said. “They’re out there, and the possibility. That’s what makes the draft so exciting is the hope and possibility of what could be but there’s certainly no guarantee. I mean the chances of a player picked in the player picked in the twenties is maybe 10 percent chance of that player being a rotation player. So, the odds of using draft picks and those becoming [transcendent] are very small. But they’re still possible.
“That’s eight swings, eight swings of the bat. I’ve got eight mulligans. Maybe we’ll draft all of them and hope one of them comes out, fight it out in training camp.”
Ainge said he’s not sure how many of the top picks will actually come to the team’s facility in Waltham for a workout.
“That’s a good question,” he said. “I’m not sure of that. So much depends on the ping pong balls and where we are. I’ve got a feeling of certain guys that’ll only visit two or three teams so I don’t know. I don’t know. By May 17, we’ll probably know a lot more.”