BYU legend Danny Ainge has been the general manager of the Boston Celtics since 2003, and during that time he has cultivated a reputation as an executive who deals very freely but also always seems to get what he wants in trades.
Is that an accurate assessment though? Last week, NBA reporter Keith Smith published a deep dive on Ainge in which he asked a bunch of executives around the league what it’s like to work with him and the Celtics organization in general.
Smith laid out that he asked each person the same set of five questions:
· What’s it like to talk trades with Danny Ainge and the Celtics?
· Does Danny Ainge drive as hard of a bargain as is often portrayed in the media?
· How often do you think Boston has really been “close” to trading for a star player?
· Do you think Danny Ainge has actually “won” most of his trades?
· Do you enjoy talking trades with Boston?
As can be expected, different people gave different answers to the various questions, with many noting that Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren is incredibly tough, too.
One near-consensus about Ainge, however, is that he really does drive a hard bargain when it comes to trade negotiations.
“I think Danny knows what he wants and he trusts Zarren to figure out a way to make the (salary) cap work,” one Western Conference GM is quoted as saying. “More often than not, they have been correct. So, I can’t blame them. But it does get frustrating when you think you’ve made a fair offer and Boston pushes for more. You have to have the guts to just walk away.”
One storyline over the past few years has been that the Celtics have been in title contention and have also had a lot of assets they could trade for an established star player to push them closer to a championship, but they’ve never gotten a deal done.
There was some disagreement on how close Boston has actually come to finishing such a deal, although one executive noted, “Here’s the thing though: I’m not sure getting close and not making the deal has missed for Boston. Trade for a couple of guys and you don’t have (Jayson) Tatum or (Jaylen) Brown. Make a deal for AD (Anthony Davis), and you’re out players and picks, and he probably leaves anyway. I think Danny has been right to walk away and not overpay.”
On the question of whether Ainge has “won” most of the trades he has made, one person noted, “You don’t stay in the job as long as Danny has without doing well in most of your deals.”
There was some disagreement about how much people enjoy talking trades with Boston, with some saying they like it because the Celtics are honest and others saying they don’t because it can be hard to get a deal done, but the concluding quote of the piece reads in part, “You have to have trust and I trust Boston when making a trade.”