Danny Ainge took a beating on draft night. He gave up the number one pick with ease but he wasn’t willing to give up the number three pick and snatch up Jimmy Butler, a player the Celtics have been targeting (publicly) for the past two years. Ainge took it on the chin with all the he’s so scared slanderous comments thrown his way, while secretly holding on to his plan. It is the beautiful detail about the Ainge rebuild. He is firm in his intention, willing to take the public stoning after running Doc out of town and trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and the next year Rajon Rondo. Ainge knows what he wants and he doesn’t really care who else is on board with his plan that he is not really sharing.
Now it has come to light what his hopes are and the reveal had nothing to do with media approval and more to do with what he wants his two targets to know. Gordon Hayward and Paul George are a package deal.
Ainge wants to sign Hayward first. Then he wants to trade for Paul George with pieces on the Celtics roster plus the #3 pick Jayson Tatum who is a small forward. The sell to the Pacers is Tatum is a young Paul George. You get to start the rebuild with lottery pick talent. And I’ll throw in Jae Crowder and some other Celtic pieces.
Putting it out there is less for the benefit of the Pacers and more for George and Hayward to wrap their brains around the two of them coming together and forming their own version of a super team.
It is a well thought out plan and pushes back all of the backlash of Ainge being scared. It also tells you how much Ainge values Paul George over Jimmy Butler. Butler is an iso player; George is not. Last season, Jimmy Butler touched the ball 69.8 times per game. He had the ball in his hands 4.34 seconds per touch and dribbled the ball 3.44 times per touch. Paul George touched the ball 62.7 times per game. He had the ball in his hands 2.92 seconds per touch and dribbled the ball 2.13 times.
George moves the ball, Butler holds on to the ball. George fits in the Brad Stevens offense better than Butler.
But will it work, this plan of Ainge’s?
Paul George has told everyone and anyone who wants to listen he is not signing an extension. He is still holding firm to the go to L.A. plan and rumors are circulating that he is quietly (not John Wall style) in conversation with 2018 free agents to join him in L.A. What Ainge hopes is that George thinks of Gordon Hayward as a complimentary star, and that a year with the two of them, and Al Horford, and Isaiah Thomas will pay dividends and knock off the Cavs and get the Celtics to the Finals. It would be hard for George to turn down a long term deal from a team that is in the Finals.
That is best case scenario, if everything goes smoothly.
Worst case scenario: everything can blow up in Ainge’s face. The Pacers may want more than the Celtics are willing to give. Or, Hayward decides to go to Miami, sold by Pat Riley and the lure of becoming a South Beach star. In Miami, Hayward is the big fish. In Boston, he is behind George and Thomas in the star hierarchy, who both have been to Eastern Conference Finals. Hayward has only been out the first round once and that was this year.
Ainge gambled on draft night hoping it will pay off, that he can make this work ala Riley in 2010 with the Heat. Hayward is the biggest unknown. He has a lot of suitors. Boston is one of many in the mix. But the C’s are a pretty hard organization to say no to. And even if Hayward says yes, what if Indiana says no. Then what?
Do you believe Ainge when he says that Hayward-George are a package deal? I don’t. I think he’ll take Hayward regardless.
So far, Ainge has been good at keeping everyone guessing. He knows the league wants Hayward and George in Boston because that makes the Cavaliers and the Eastern Conference more competitive and interesting. But what the league wants and what Ainge wants may not be what they get. Gordon Hayward may take the money and stay in Utah and then the Ainge dreams are down the drain.
2017-18 may be paradise lost before paradise is found.
photo via llananba