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In Defense of Danny Ainge

Since the NBA draft, I’ve seen a lot of hate directed at Danny Ainge. People saying he messed up the draft or couldn’t pull the trigger for Miles Turner. And I get that. But Danny has consistently put this team in a position to win. Remember, the Celtics have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals three out of the last four years. Let’s take some time to really dive into what he’s doing here.

The Moves Ainge DID Make

So far this offseason, Ainge has added four players to the team: guards Jeff Teague and Payton Pritchard, guard/forward Aaron Nesmith, and center Tristan Thompson. Let’s take a dive into what each of them bring to the team.

Jeff Teague

Jeff Teague has been in the league for a while now. He made his first (and likely only) All-Star game in 2015, and the past two years he’s been the point guard off the bench for the Timberwolves and the Hawks. He’s definitely lost a step, but he’s still a fairly good player and should be a good playmaker and scorer for the second unit. This was a spot the Celtics were lacking in last year, as Brad Wanamaker was good in spurts, but wasn’t consistent at all. I think Teague can at least be more consistent than Wanamaker.

Tristan Thompson

Tristan Thompson comes to the Celtics after 9 years on the Cavs. He started out his time there at Power Forward before moving to Center in the league’s increasing move towards small-ball. He’s a great rebounder and an efficient scorer, and he started to experiment with a three point shot last year (.391 clip on .4 attempts per game). This is something I can see developing further on the Celtics, which makes him a better fit for this roster than Enes Kanter last year. And that’s basically what Thompson will be for this team: Enes Kanter with a better three point shot. Hopefully Brad can pull some better defense out of him too, as he’s also more athletic than Kanter. We’ll see if he can steal the starting spot from Theis.

Aaron Nesmith

Aaron Nesmith was the Celtics’ top pick this year. At 6’6, 213 lbs, he’ll likely see time at the 2 and 3, and maybe a little 4 as well. The guy’s a sharpshooter, and that’s something desperately needed by this team. As a sophomore last year, he shot 52% from the 3 point line! Insane. He made more 3’s in 14 games last year than he did the year before in 32, so it’s definitely a part of the game he’s worked on. Honestly, that’s all the Celtics should need from him this year. We’ll see how else he can contribute, but I wouldn’t mind him taking Gordon Hayward’s minutes next year. I think he’s a great add to this team.

Payton Pritchard

Payton Pritchard is the one addition that I’m more curious of. He’s definitely a high-volume scorer, scoring 20.5 points per game last season for the Oregon Ducks on almost 15 shots per game. From what I’ve seen, he’s not the best defender and might have trouble running an NBA offense  as a playmaker, but he could be another scorer/shooting coming off the bench. Honestly, he reminds me a lot of Carson Edwards, so there might be some redundancy there that might need to get resolved at some point. Physically, he’s taller than Edwards at 6’2 (according to ESPN), but Edwards is heavier (look at those THIGHS) and might prove to be a stouter defender down the line. Either way, I don’t see Pritchard making too much of a splash this season.

But What About Myles Turner?

Honestly, I would love Turner to be on the Celtics. The (reported) deal I saw for him and McDermott for Hayward and a 1st seemed great. But we don’t know if that was the deal. Plus, once Hayward became a free agent, Ainge had no control. We should be glad he even got the trade exception!

That said, while Turner is younger than Thompson, I think the two are very similar players right now. Both aren’t great defenders (Turner can get blocks but not much else, as Thompson can be good if he concentrates on D), but more rebounders and scorers. Turner is farther along in developing a 3 point shot than Thompson, but I think Thompson could make a (relative) leap and cause defenders to at least respect his shot. Plus, Thompson is only making $5 million a year versus Turner’s $18 million. I would rather have Turner all things equal, but I think getting Thompson at that price is a steal. And again, Hayward may not have wanted to go to the Pacers at all; maybe he wouldn’t commit to a deal the Pacers liked. We don’t know what went on behind the scenes.

Those are my thoughts on the Celtics’ moves so far. We’ll see if everything works out for this team, but I think with Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum leading this team, they’ll go far. And we have to at least thank Danny for that.

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– Pat Shuman (@PShu1996 on Twitter)

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