Celtics stand pat, but Ainge still open to trading

Celtics stand pat, but Ainge still open to trading
June 27, 2014, 1:00 am
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BOSTON -- This was not a typical Danny Ainge draft. 

With plenty of draft capital, both present and future, he had all the ammunition necessary to make a move. Even if it wasn't a blockbuster, Ainge had the resources to move up potentially, move down, or trade for immediate help. He even had a little cash to play with in case he wanted to move into the second round since the team had no second-round selections.

Yet the man Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck called "Trader Danny" earlier in the night stood pat. 

With the No. 6 pick Ainge took Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart. With the No. 17 pick he took Kentucky swing man James Young. 

"Before the day started," Ainge said, "if we could've come away with these we would've been really happy. We were fortunate to have that happen."

Ainge spoke passionately about the two newest Celtics, but still it didn't seem like his kind of draft. There had to be something looming. Perhaps a trade of the team's most valuable asset, Rajon Rondo? A move to rebuild in earnest?

Not exactly. 

Ainge said that the plan was to move forward with Rondo, and he explained how he felt as though Smart could play alongside the team's incumbent floor general (as well as with restricted free agent shooting guard Avery Bradley).

"Absolutely," Ainge said. "No question. And [Smart] and Avery, no question. He's a very versatile player, he can play off the ball, he can handle the ball. He's actually, with his length and his size, he could probably play against a lot of small forwards at 6-foot-3 and a long wingspan and 230 pounds. He's a very versatile player. Easily those guys could play together. And I think they would like really thrive together, all of them."

For Ainge to abandon his ways of wheeling and dealing on draft night, he must have truly believed in both Smart and Young. Or there must have been no enticing trade options. 

It sounds as though it was a little bit of both.

After drafting Smart, Grousbeck hinted at what was going on behind closed doors and on the Celtics' phone lines.

"Typically on draft day we make at least two trades if not three, it's just sort of the way we roll . . . Trader Danny," Grousbeck said. "It's had great effect for us. We really are -- we like to be aggressive about rebuilding this team, and we'd like to try to become contenders as quickly as possible. We'll keep working the phones, but it takes two partners to make a trade."

Ainge confirmed Grousbeck's concerns later in the night.

"Not so much tonight," Ainge said of the team's trade prospects. "I know there's been a lot of conversation over the last month. There were a few tempting opportunities, but nothing exciting. Nothing better than what we were able to accomplish in the draft." 

 

And judging by how he spoke of both Smart and Young, Ainge was under the impression that the Celtics accomplished quite a bit.

"Marcus is a hard guy not to like," Ainge said. "He plays with great fire, and he's one of the top competitors that I've seen around the world watching basketball. I think that's probably the first thing that caught my eye. Then we just studied him and he plays extremely hard. He's very physical. He gets to the free-throw line. We feel like his shooting has really improved in this offseason and I think he has a real bright future as a point guard, but I also think he can play off the ball as well."

"James, he was a good shooter all throughout his high-school life," Ainge said, "and he didn't shoot the ball as well this year as he has in the past, but he shot the ball great in the NCAA tournament. We know he's a good shooter. He's got a good athletic body with good size, good length for a small forward and we think he's sort of a prototypical small forward."

Even with Rondo, the roster is one that is being rebuilt. Grousbeck admitted as much earlier in the night saying that rebuilding teams go after the best players -- regardless of position -- and figure out the rest later. It's why they drafted Smart when they already had an All-Star point guard.

But Ainge wasn't willing to concede that next season would be a rebuilding one focused on developing young players. Not because he believes the current roster is ready to contend. But because it's a long offseason with endless possibilities. And no trade deadline in sight.

"We'll see," Ainge said. "We'll see what happens the rest of the summer. Not sure yet. It's too early to say that. That's an emphasis always to develop young players so we're always trying to do that. But how many of them we have, and what our final roster is? I don't know. But we're very excited about these two guys and our young core right now." 

Content, yet still leaving his options open. That sounds more like the Trader Danny we all know.