The last time the Celtics made multiple big trades it paid off within a year in the form of a championship. This year they made three huge moves that likely won’t lead to success now, but in the future. The Big Three era is over in Boston and the Brad Stevens era is about to start.
In 2007, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce in Boston. The Celtics had to trade away the #5 pick for Allen and Al Jefferson and most of their youth for Kevin Garnett. With the help of Rajon Rondo, head coach Doc Rivers and assistant coach Tom Thibodeau the Celtics won the championship that season. The next four years didn’t have as much success. They went back to the finals and they won their division five straight years before finishing third last year and losing in the first round of playoffs.
The three stars were aging so general manager Danny Ainge made a great decision to liquidate now and benefit in the future. He first traded Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2015 unprotected first round draft pick. To get anything for Rivers was great because he almost became the Nets coach about a month earlier. The next trade that Ainge did was a work of art. He traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for the Nets 2014, 2016 and 2018 unprotected first round draft picks, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. The first round pick in 2016 will probably be a very high draft pick. By that time the Nets will most likely be out of gas. If it’s a top five pick, it will greatly improve the Celtics who will probably be good by then anyways.
Brad Stevens got hired away from Butler to coach the Celtics. The 36 year old led Butler to back to back National Championship games in which they lost both. If you take Butler to the Finals you are a beast. He turned Gordon Hayward who was not rivals rated as a high schooler into the ninth overall pick in the NBA Draft. Hayward was a part of the first Butler team to make the finals. The next year he wasn’t. Brad Stevens took Butler to the finals without a first round draft pick. Before Brad Stevens, just going to the NCAA Tournament was a big deal.
When Stevens was hired it brought a lot of optimism along with it. He is different from almost all of the past great college coaches who took NBA jobs. John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Mike Montgomery, Lon Kruger, the list goes on and on. Larry Brown is the last coach to win a NBA Championship after coaching in college. He also won a title at Kansas. He also moved jobs very frequently. He is known for being both a great college coach and pro coach. Calipari failed in New Jersey, Pitino failed in Boston and New York, Mike Montgomery failed at Golden State and Kruger failed in Atlanta. All of them had previously been to at least the final four before the jump to the NBA.
The thing is, it’s not really a risk for Brad Stevens. He is getting a big contract from the Celtics for almost 3.7 million a year. And if he fails, then he will be welcomed back to college basketball with offers from every school with a vacancy. When Coach K leaves Duke, Brad Stevens will get a call. All of the coaches that failed in the NBA are now back in college at big programs. If Stevens does great in the NBA then he will get even more money. Phil Jackson made more than ten million a year in his last years with the Lakers.
The Celtics will have a very interesting season next year. Their starters will most likely be Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace and either Fab Melo or Kelly Olynyk starting. The bench will have Marshon Brooks, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Kris Humphries, Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford, and either Melo or Olynyk. That is pretty deep and the starters are pretty good themselves. With Brad Stevens as coach I think Boston will be a four seed, make it to the second round of playoffs, and lose to the Heat in six.
You can follow Thomas Frey on Twitter: @ThomasFreyRP