Thankful for This Celtics Team

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With Thanksgiving approaching, Boston Celtics fans have a lot to be thankful for. Boston has the best record in the league. A win over the defending champions Golden State Warriors strengthens the record isn’t a fluke argument. And to win the game with the hype surrounding it muzzles the doubters.

So count your blessings (not calories) as you fill up on near endless entrees and the football bonanza. But especially to be thankful for this Celtics team as it could had been a dramatically different unit if things played out differently.

A disclaimer: This article is based on rumors. Many of these rumors were pushed by NBA insiders, which adds validity to the rumors. But without confirmation from the Celtics, or any involved team(s), these are just rumors.

Which is exactly why you should be thankful they’re just rumors. If any of them became true, the Celtics wouldn’t be the same team it is today, and probably not in the same place they are right now:

Thankful for Terry Rozier

Why the hell did the Celtics draft a point guard with their first round selection for a second year in a row? That was the question many people asked after Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge selected Rozier 16th overall from Louisville.

Marcus Smart was selected sixth overall in 2014. Smart is a fierce defender, but he can’t shoot. Boston didn’t need another point guard with accuracy issues. Besides, when would Rozier play with Isaiah Thomas being very productive off the bench? (So much changed so quickly, right?)

If it was up to Ainge, he would had selected SF Justise Winslow instead of Rozier. To do so, Trader Dan needed to trade up. According to rumors, he was willing to part ways with up to six draft picks to move up to ninth overall, owned by the Charlotte Hornets.

Though the offer was generous, the Hornets declined the offer and selected C/PF Frank Kaminsky. Winslow went to the Miami Heat at 10.

In their third year, a case can be made that Rozier is better than either player mentioned above. While Kaminsky is the top scorer of the trio as of 11/20 with 10.3 points per game and Winslow has the edge in rebounding with 5.3 per, Rozier is better in assists (2.3), steals (1.1) and his win share (1.1) is more than Kaminsky’s (0.4) and Winslow’s (0.5) combined.

Harder to imagine is what six picks did Ainge offer. Did Ainge offer the 2016 Brooklyn pick or the right to swap with Brooklyn in 2017? If Ainge did, then Charlotte was out of their minds to reject an offer that included either.

It’s more probable either Brooklyn pick was off the table in the offer, which could be why the Hornets turned down Boston’s offer. But this failed trade may had been a precursor for future failed deals.

Thankful for Jae Crowder

The Celtics and Chicago Bulls discussed a deal for Jimmy Butler since last February’s trade deadline. Apparently a deal was close, but one piece Ainge couldn’t let go of:

Jae Crowder.

Yup. Jae. Crowder.

According to NBATV’s David Aldridge, Crowder was the sticking point for Ainge. Whatever draft picks were included in the package, it was Crowder’s inclusion that killed the deadline deal.

Months later, after Ainge traded the first pick overall to the Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago was on the phone again, offering Butler for just the third pick overall. Ainge said nope.

That pick became Jayson Tatum. Between the rookie and Butler, who would Celtics fans rather have?

That question could be asked again, swapping Butler for Paul George.

Thankful for the Indiana Pacers

Maybe the Pacers front office didn’t want to be tortured by their franchise player for the next several seasons. By sending George to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference, Indiana would be victimized by George up to twice per year. This isn’t a masochistic franchise.

Indiana should be kicking themselves, though, as they missed a chance at a new franchise player in Tatum.

While Crowder was a deal-breaker with the Bulls, Ainge allegedly included Crowder, along with the right to swap with Brooklyn in 2017, in a package for George at the February trade deadline. The Pacers, led by then-Pacers president Larry Bird, said thanks but no thanks.

It wasn’t Boston’s last attempt to acquire George, as the Celtics swung for George during the draft. The difference: the Brooklyn swap was off the table. This time it was general manager Kevin Pritchard’s turn to reject a deal that included three future firsts, Crowder and Avery Bradley.

Since Boston couldn’t throw all those assets into one deal for George, Boston divested: Bradley and a 2019 second round pick to the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris; Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, the 2018 Nets pick and a Cleveland Cavaliers 2020 second round pick to the Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving.

This probably isn’t the team Ainge envisioned years ago, but he did a great job of rolling with the punches, making excellent adjustments and nailing the draft selections.

Ainge doesn’t deserve all the credit, though. Ainge could had drastically changed Boston’s future if the teams he engaged in trade talks with weren’t so greedy with their demands.

So appreciate the deals Ainge made to make this Celtics team. But be thankful for factors that stopped Trader Dan, as sometimes the best deal is no deal.

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