Comparing Stevens and Ainge as GMs

BringBackMo

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
1,368
It *feels* like Brad is much more creative and decisive with these kinds of moves than Danny was. Curious what the board thinks. Is that feeling merely recency bias or is Brad truly making things happen that Danny—an outstanding basketball exec by any measure—didn’t/wouldn’t have?
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
13,261
It *feels* like Brad is much more creative and decisive with these kinds of moves than Danny was. Curious what the board thinks. Is that feeling merely recency bias or is Brad truly making things happen that Danny—an outstanding basketball exec by any measure—didn’t/wouldn’t have?
Brad is much, much more aggressive about spending picks of all kinds on rotational upgrades. He particularly guys who are proven in the league and have some situational fit upside, but are underpriced a bit (not tons). 2021 Horford, DWhite, KP all fit this. Even Jrue, arguably does: he was playing at an All-NBA level in Milwaukee, but was available for less than similarly impactful guys.

Towards the end of his tenure, Danny did a poor job turning late 1sts into rotation players, and then got stuck throwing some of them away, or using them in tiny salary dumps.
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
22,848
Pittsburgh, PA
It *feels* like Brad is much more creative and decisive with these kinds of moves than Danny was. Curious what the board thinks. Is that feeling merely recency bias or is Brad truly making things happen that Danny—an outstanding basketball exec by any measure—didn’t/wouldn’t have?
To the extent this difference exists, it probably has a lot to do with most of Danny's moves in his 18-year tenure being with a view towards the next 5+ years, whereas Brad's moves are specifically around Banner This Year (and apres lui, le deluge). The most dramatic exception to that - acquiring Ray and KG - sort of still fits, since he was focused on winning that year with the assets he had (and made smaller moves to shore things up, of course).

Other than building the original Big 3, and making the Billy King trade in the first place, the biggest move Danny made may have been not trading out of some of those Brooklyn picks. I'm sure the temptation was there. There would always have been good players available for those picks. That he held firm on those despite his trader-Danny ways suggests a lot of poise and strategic thinking that also argues against Brad being any better in that regard. Of course, for a more fair evaluation of their tendencies, we'd have to give Brad at least a decade in the role, because we have 10x the length of experience with Danny at the helm.
 

PedroKsBambino

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Apr 17, 2003
32,312
Brad is much, much more aggressive about spending picks of all kinds on rotational upgrades. He particularly guys who are proven in the league and have some situational fit upside, but are underpriced a bit (not tons). 2021 Horford, DWhite, KP all fit this. Even Jrue, arguably does: he was playing at an All-NBA level in Milwaukee, but was available for less than similarly impactful guys.

Towards the end of his tenure, Danny did a poor job turning late 1sts into rotation players, and then got stuck throwing some of them away, or using them in tiny salary dumps.
agreed.

Danny was to my eyes very focused on building assets, optionality, and value. That makes him great at bottoming out and building a team. But it isn’t the best fit for making incremental tweaks for championship-level play because those moves often require overpaying (in an asset/value sense) and losing optionality.

Danny’s one of the top few basketball execs…and I do think Brad has shown more focus on winning with this core, now. We don’t know for sure what Danny would have done had he stayed but I suspect it would have been different
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
13,261
agreed.

Danny was to my eyes very focused on building assets, optionality, and value. That makes him great at bottoming out and building a team. But it isn’t the best fit for making incremental tweaks for championship-level play because those moves often require overpaying (in an asset/value sense) and losing optionality.

Danny’s one of the top few basketball execs…and I do think Brad has shown more focus on winning with this core, now. We don’t know for sure what Danny would have done had he stayed but I suspect it would have been different
I mostly agree, with one huge caveat: Brad rarely (never?) overpays. He just is willing to exchange picks for slightly underpriced rotation players, over and over.

It's not even that "win now". We're on year 3 of the Brad experience, they've already been to 2 ECFs and one Finals, and the only future assets owed are a 2029 1st and a 2028 swap. Every contract on the roster has positive value.

Danny is a good GM, but no one in the entire NBA is on a GM run like Brad has been on the past 3 years.
 

PedroKsBambino

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Apr 17, 2003
32,312
I mostly agree, with one huge caveat: Brad rarely (never?) overpays. He just is willing to exchange picks for slightly underpriced rotation players, over and over.

It's not even that "win now". We're on year 3 of the Brad experience, they've already been to 2 ECFs and one Finals, and the only future assets owed are a 2029 1st and a 2028 swap. Every contract on the roster has positive value.

Danny is a good GM, but no one in the entire NBA is on a GM run like Brad has been on the past 3 years.
It's certainly debateable - I would characterize Jrue trade as an overpay value-wise....depending on what assumptions one makes about him resigning, TL's future, etc. and how much Brogdon didn't really fit. It's a ton of value to upgrade from Brogdon to Jrue.

However, I think it's a perfect fit on the court and an example of realizing that the value of pick that could be anywhere from 10-30 and TL and such simply gets discounted to below the value of someone who contributes in a big way, with a high degree of confidence, now. I am not sure that Danny would have made that deal, however.

The Tillman deal is also one where half a season of a guy may be worth 'less' in theory than two seconds. But this year's on-court value for him is high, and there's optionality from the Bird rights. I think it's a great deal, but in an abstract value sense you can make the case it's negative

This is not Dombrowski selling the whole farm kind of stuff by any means.
 

benhogan

Granite Truther
SoSH Member
Nov 2, 2007
20,871
Santa Monica
I mostly agree, with one huge caveat: Brad rarely (never?) overpays. He just is willing to exchange picks for slightly underpriced rotation players, over and over.

It's not even that "win now". We're on year 3 of the Brad experience, they've already been to 2 ECFs and one Finals, and the only future assets owed are a 2029 1st and a 2028 swap. Every contract on the roster has positive value.

Danny is a good GM, but no one in the entire NBA is on a GM run like Brad has been on the past 3 years.
A few of Brad's deals have been fair for both sides.
Whereas in Danny's case, it always felt like he had to be the clear winner in a trade.

For example, Indiana/Brogdon was a good deal for both teams. Same with PDX/Jrue. Brad also has some extreme heists.
Doing win/win trades opens up the phone lines for future deals with many teams that wouldn't pick up Danny's calls.
Most importantly, a win/win trade benefits Boston, which appears to be Brad's only concern.

The other thing the Celtics have been very clever about over the last few years is their use of picks in trades.
Brad realized from Day 1 (in the Kemba deal) that a first-round pick in their hands is worth a lot less than a first-round pick in a rebuilder's hands.
 
Last edited:

BringBackMo

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
1,368
To the extent this difference exists, it probably has a lot to do with most of Danny's moves in his 18-year tenure being with a view towards the next 5+ years, whereas Brad's moves are specifically around Banner This Year (and apres lui, le deluge). The most dramatic exception to that - acquiring Ray and KG - sort of still fits, since he was focused on winning that year with the assets he had (and made smaller moves to shore things up, of course).

Other than building the original Big 3, and making the Billy King trade in the first place, the biggest move Danny made may have been not trading out of some of those Brooklyn picks. I'm sure the temptation was there. There would always have been good players available for those picks. That he held firm on those despite his trader-Danny ways suggests a lot of poise and strategic thinking that also argues against Brad being any better in that regard. Of course, for a more fair evaluation of their tendencies, we'd have to give Brad at least a decade in the role, because we have 10x the length of experience with Danny at the helm.
I was more getting at the idea of using assets to upgrade around the core--as opposed to building the core in the first place--in a way that improved the chances of a title. To be clear, not criticizing Danny at all. Love him! I'm just saying that it *felt* like he was more reluctant than Brad is to part with his assets to marginally though meaningfully upgrade the roster.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
13,261
I'm curious what posters think of the role of Mike Zarren. How much of the credit also belongs to him?
I give him a lot of credit operationally, but he was here under Danny, and the strategy wasn't as strong then.
 

DavidTai

Member
SoSH Member
Dec 18, 2003
1,290
Herndon, VA
The other thing the Celtics have been very clever about over the last few years is their use of picks in trades.
Brad realized from Day 1 (in the Kemba deal) that a first-round pick in their hands is worth a lot less than a first-round pick in a rebuilder's hands.
It feels more like Brad is much, much more willing to trade picks for players further along in their developmental curve, where other teams have already sanded off the rough edges, while Danny went for guys that had high ceilings and lower floors. The latter's great for developing teams, the former's much more useful for contenders.
 

BringBackMo

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
1,368
Reading these assessments of Brad's work over the past three years, it's impossible not to recall that day when it was announced that he was going to become the new POBO and the entire sports world was like...WHAT? It was just so out of left field. But, of course, he's been amazing. I think Wyc gets a lot of credit for recognizing the potential.
 

JakeRae

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 21, 2005
8,284
New York, NY
I mostly agree, with one huge caveat: Brad rarely (never?) overpays. He just is willing to exchange picks for slightly underpriced rotation players, over and over.

It's not even that "win now". We're on year 3 of the Brad experience, they've already been to 2 ECFs and one Finals, and the only future assets owed are a 2029 1st and a 2028 swap. Every contract on the roster has positive value.

Danny is a good GM, but no one in the entire NBA is on a GM run like Brad has been on the past 3 years.
I was planning to post a similar response. I cannot think of a trade Brad has made that was an overpay. The only trade I can think of that even got some pushback here was the White trade, with a minority of posters worried about the value of the 2028 swap. There was some significant disagreement on how valuable White was (Brad has come out on the right side of that) and the value of the swap (still too early to say but I remain confident that barring an injury-plagued season, that swap is unlikely to be a big deal). Brad has certainly been more willing than Danny was to take risks on deals that weren’t clear cut winners, but he has consistently targeted players the league wasn’t valuing fully (Horford, White, Porzingis, and arguably even Jrue). Focus on acquiring undervalued players v. winning trades has been a big plus because it lets him/us keep improving via trades without needing to “win” them.
 

benhogan

Granite Truther
SoSH Member
Nov 2, 2007
20,871
Santa Monica
I'm curious what posters think of the role of Mike Zarren. How much of the credit also belongs to him?
A HUGE amount. My completely random guess is 33/67 split between him & Brad.
The contract/financial maneuvering has been stealth-like.

Brad's talent evaluation/roster construction has been even more elite.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
13,261
Reading these assessments of Brad's work over the past three years, it's impossible not to recall that day when it was announced that he was going to become the new POBO and the entire sports world was like...WHAT? It was just so out of left field. But, of course, he's been amazing. I think Wyc gets a lot of credit for recognizing the potential.
It's crazy that he's better at this than at coaching, and he was a pretty good coach.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
13,261
To put it another way, Brad has been great at hitting singles where Danny was swinging for the fences. The former is more important where BOS is now.
The thing is, DWhite and KP are doubles or triples, easy. There isn't a way to slice things that doesn't make Brad look awesome imo.

In your analogy, Brad is a guy slugging 600+ with only 15-20 HRs/year.
 

benhogan

Granite Truther
SoSH Member
Nov 2, 2007
20,871
Santa Monica
It feels more like Brad is much, much more willing to trade picks for players further along in their developmental curve, where other teams have already sanded off the rough edges, while Danny went for guys that had high ceilings and lower floors. The latter's great for developing teams, the former's much more useful for contenders.
Agreed. Brad's teams don't have the minutes to develop rookies or even players like Aaron Nesmith or Langford.

To put it another way, Brad has been great at hitting singles where Danny was swinging for the fences. The former is more important where BOS is now.
Brad has posted a ton of singles but also has his share of HRs. He has done a plethora of really good deals in 30 months where he's batting around .900 ;)

Here is pure conjecture on my part:
Gordon Hayward signing with Charlotte would be a good example of the difference between Danny & Brad.

Danny ended up with a TPE (+2 Seconds), not terrible assets. BUT I suspect Brad would have gotten something done with Indiana, extracted more assets, & the Pacers would have paid less for Gordo contract-wise (his desired location). Win/Win...Just my gut feeling.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
13,261
Danny ended up with a TPE, not a terrible asset. BUT I suspect Brad would have gotten something done with Indiana, extracted more assets, & the Pacers would have paid less for Gordo contract-wise (his desired location). Win/Win...Just my gut feeling.
Definitely felt like there was a Danny/Pritchard pissing contest that got in the way of doing good business on that one.
 

Auger34

used to be tbb
SoSH Member
Apr 23, 2010
11,022
It’s so hard to say since we don’t know who he fought hard for that Danny/Brad vetoed and vice versa.
None of us know for sure but I would venture a guess that he deserves a shitload of credit. He's always one of the first people mentioned when talking about the Celtics FO and their competency, even back to the Ainge days
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 26, 2005
31,544
The thing is, DWhite and KP are doubles or triples, easy. There isn't a way to slice things that doesn't make Brad look awesome imo.

In your analogy, Brad is a guy slugging 600+ with only 15-20 HRs/year.
I like to think of it that Brad is hitting singles but stealing 2nd and 3rd. More specifically, I feel like Brad is trying to incrementally improve the team outside of the Jays and is willing to give up "fair value" in return but the trades wildly overperform.

Compared to Danny who had to "win" every trade.

But yeah, Brad is on a heater. Hope it doesn't wear off anytime soon.

Agreed. Brad's teams don't have the minutes to develop rookies or even players like Aaron Nesmith or Langford.


Brad has posted a ton of singles but also has his share of HRs. He has done a plethora of really good deals in 30 months where he's batting around .900 ;)

Here is pure conjecture on my part:
Gordon Hayward signing with Charlotte would be a good example of the difference between Danny & Brad.

Danny ended up with a TPE (+2 Seconds), not terrible assets. BUT I suspect Brad would have gotten something done with Indiana, extracted more assets, & the Pacers would have paid less for Gordo contract-wise (his desired location). Win/Win...Just my gut feeling.
With respect to Hayward, unless the Jays put the kibosh on it based on their World Cup experience, I think Brad would have ended up with Myles Turner, who I think would have been a good asset for BOS.
 

lexrageorge

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 31, 2007
18,476
I think the "Ainge needed to win every deal" is way overstated. Ainge certainly made risky moves, some of which didn't pan out. Ainge's eras, if you will:

a.) Revolving door trades to first build a playoff contender around Pierce, including trading and later bring back Walker, adding Gary Payton, etc.
b.) More trades to create a bank of expiring contracts when the team fell out of contention.
c.) Trading a horrible draft pick (result of "bad" lottery luck) and some of those accumulated contracts for a disgruntled Ray Allen. Plenty of "WTF" reactions among many NBA commentators at the time.
d.) Emptying the cupboard for KG, a move considered risky in that the team's entire bench had to be rebuilt ("maybe they'll make the playoffs" said one Bob Ryan).
e.) Disbanding the big 2 with the Brooklyn trade (Nets were thrilled to get Pierce and KG at the time)
f.) Signing free agents to rebuild with cap space around Horford, Hayward and the picks. Included in there was a failed pursuit of KD.
g.) Trading for Kyrie.

Danny wasn't in the best position when Hayward got hurt and the Kyrie fiasco blew up, and so he needed to retool around Smart and the Jays on the fly. And then Kemba's knee crumbled. There may have been some trades to be had (e.g., trading Kyrie when the storm clouds gathered), but I don't see an example of a trade blowing up because Ainge had to "win" ever deal. There did seem to be some animus between Ainge and Indiana's GM, but Ainge was still well respected by most and has made some potential win/win deals at the helm of the Jazz.

Stevens was starting in a very different position from Ainge. It was "Jays or bust" for POBOS, so he wisely decided to do whatever was possible to create the best roster around them. But he has pulled off some absolute stunners (never expected KP and Jrue trades).
 

benhogan

Granite Truther
SoSH Member
Nov 2, 2007
20,871
Santa Monica
I think the "Ainge needed to win every deal" is way overstated. Ainge certainly made risky moves, some of which didn't pan out. Ainge's eras, if you will:

a.) Revolving door trades to first build a playoff contender around Pierce, including trading and later bring back Walker, adding Gary Payton, etc.
b.) More trades to create a bank of expiring contracts when the team fell out of contention.
c.) Trading a horrible draft pick (result of "bad" lottery luck) and some of those accumulated contracts for a disgruntled Ray Allen. Plenty of "WTF" reactions among many NBA commentators at the time.
d.) Emptying the cupboard for KG, a move considered risky in that the team's entire bench had to be rebuilt ("maybe they'll make the playoffs" said one Bob Ryan).
e.) Disbanding the big 2 with the Brooklyn trade (Nets were thrilled to get Pierce and KG at the time)
f.) Signing free agents to rebuild with cap space around Horford, Hayward and the picks. Included in there was a failed pursuit of KD.
g.) Trading for Kyrie.

Danny wasn't in the best position when Hayward got hurt and the Kyrie fiasco blew up, and so he needed to retool around Smart and the Jays on the fly. And then Kemba's knee crumbled. There may have been some trades to be had (e.g., trading Kyrie when the storm clouds gathered), but I don't see an example of a trade blowing up because Ainge had to "win" ever deal. There did seem to be some animus between Ainge and Indiana's GM, but Ainge was still well respected by most and has made some potential win/win deals at the helm of the Jazz.

Stevens was starting in a very different position from Ainge. It was "Jays or bust" for POBOS, so he wisely decided to do whatever was possible to create the best roster around them. But he has pulled off some absolute stunners (never expected KP and Jrue trades).
Danny was/is a great GM, all of my criticism of him centers on, his last couple of years in Boston (All-Star game Kyrie/Durant hallway meeting until he "retired"). PBS has crushed it over his 30 months with a different approach than Danny was taking with this team.

Also, I don't believe the "Danny must win every trade" meme was started around here.
 

Eddie Jurak

canderson-lite
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 12, 2002
45,274
Melrose, MA
Danny Ainge was a very good GM, Brad is an even better one.

They both have difference conceptions of what they want in a team - Danny being way more open to the small scoring PG than Brad is.

Brad has shown himself 1) to be way more concerned about roster fit than Danny was (perhaps because he knows firsthand what it is like to coach for a GM who is less focused on roster fit) but 2) shrewd enough to do that right. Bad GMs will hemorrhage talent trying to play for fit, Stevens doesn't. It is also obvious from the number of under the horizon deals Brad has made that he and the Celtics have scouted the league thoroughly enough to know what players they like should the opportunity arise to get them, whether that be perennial All-Star types (Jrue Holiday) or minimum salary guys (Xavier Tillman).

I think Brad is better at managing contracts (I don't mean player contract negotiations, I mean having contracts on hand that can be used in trades) and and working within the constraints of the salary cap. I think that is why he is so decisive. He knows that a bad contract still has value because of the cap rules. He got out from under Kemba's deal. Brad was criticized by some for bringing in Daniel Theis on a big (for his value) contract, but that deal was needed to acquire Brogdon. Brogdon was both a good move when Brad made it, even though it didn't uite work out, and a contract that could be moved when the opportunity to add Holiday arose. This year's deadline deals reflected, among other things, that Brad needed to change his approach a bit because of the second apron, and he did. He also saw how the use of second round picks as trade currency worked and went and added a bunch.

There was some consternation here over the Jaylen Brown max deal, given that it was at the time the biggest NBA contract ever signed and Brown is not even the best Celtic. No doubt Brad give Brown the deal because he believes in the Tatum/Brown Celtics. But also no doubt that he knows he can find a way out of that deal should the need arise.

I just think he sees the whole picture in a way that most GMs historically have not. And - and we cannot forget this - he has had supportive management willing to invest. That's not about his GM skills except to the extent that he has the trust of the owners.

We don't know how he will hold up in a rebuilding cycle - can when it becomes time to rebuild can he pivot seamlessly into a "talent acquisition" mode? But there is no reason to doubt that he can make this pivot when the need arises.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
13,261
Danny Ainge was a very good GM, Brad is an even better one.

They both have difference conceptions of what they want in a team - Danny being way more open to the small scoring PG than Brad is.

Brad has shown himself 1) to be way more concerned about roster fit than Danny was (perhaps because he knows firsthand what it is like to coach for a GM who is less focused on roster fit) but 2) shrewd enough to do that right. Bad GMs will hemorrhage talent trying to play for fit, Stevens doesn't. It is also obvious from the number of under the horizon deals Brad has made that he and the Celtics have scouted the league thoroughly enough to know what players they like should the opportunity arise to get them, whether that be perennial All-Star types (Jrue Holiday) or minimum salary guys (Xavier Tillman).

I think Brad is better at managing contracts (I don't mean player contract negotiations, I mean having contracts on hand that can be used in trades) and and working within the constraints of the salary cap. I think that is why he is so decisive. He knows that a bad contract still has value because of the cap rules. He got out from under Kemba's deal. Brad was criticized by some for bringing in Daniel Theis on a big (for his value) contract, but that deal was needed to acquire Brogdon. Brogdon was both a good move when Brad made it, even though it didn't uite work out, and a contract that could be moved when the opportunity to add Holiday arose. This year's deadline deals reflected, among other things, that Brad needed to change his approach a bit because of the second apron, and he did. He also saw how the use of second round picks as trade currency worked and went and added a bunch.

There was some consternation here over the Jaylen Brown max deal, given that it was at the time the biggest NBA contract ever signed and Brown is not even the best Celtic. No doubt Brad give Brown the deal because he believes in the Tatum/Brown Celtics. But also no doubt that he knows he can find a way out of that deal should the need arise.

I just think he sees the whole picture in a way that most GMs historically have not. And - and we cannot forget this - he has had supportive management willing to invest. That's not about his GM skills except to the extent that he has the trust of the owners.

We don't know how he will hold up in a rebuilding cycle - can when it becomes time to rebuild can he pivot seamlessly into a "talent acquisition" mode? But there is no reason to doubt that he can make this pivot when the need arises.
The contract stuff is important. Ainge constantly found himself with not enough contracts to move, and there were a ton of prospective deals that simply weren't doable because of that.

And, as you say, Brad seems to focus more on whether a given contract is underwater, and less on its size. Even Brogdon, had he been healthy, was a positive asset this summer when the Clippers originally offered a late 1st for him. Jaylen is the same: people focused on the headline dollar number, but he would get a massive haul if he became available, simply because of the contract certainty. The team did a great job of making the 5th year a sticking point in negotiations.

Finally, Brad has been creative in expanding the timeframe of player development. DWhite and Jaylen both have become more valuable assets at age 27+, and Pritchard and Hauser are also more valuable now due to investment in them. Acquiring Tillman and Springer's contract rights seems to be a similar play, although it remains to be seen whether they'll develop. There's a focus not just on getting decent contracts, but on then turning them into better contracts.
 

BringBackMo

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
1,368
He also saw how the use of second round picks as trade currency worked and went and added a bunch.
Stupid question but one I don’t know the answer to: Why have second round picks become valuable as trade currency. Are we seeing more and more players taken in the second round hit? Do the picks offer some kind of financial flexibility? Is it a bubble—team X accepted them from team Y in a trade that worked out, so teams A, B, and C started seeing value in them and before long the entire league coveted them? Something else?
 

lexrageorge

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 31, 2007
18,476
Stupid question but one I don’t know the answer to: Why have second round picks become valuable as trade currency. Are we seeing more and more players taken in the second round hit? Do the picks offer some kind of financial flexibility? Is it a bubble—team X accepted them from team Y in a trade that worked out, so teams A, B, and C started seeing value in them and before long the entire league coveted them? Something else?
There are new salary cap rules for 2nd round picks, which can now be signed with the 2nd round exception. Makes it easier for teams over the cap to sign them to a contract that is still much less AAV than a mid first-rounder. Instead of paying a Romeo Langford* or Aaron Nesmith* $4M/yr to sit on the bench waiting for developmental minutes or play in G-league, they can pay Jordan Walsh $1.2M.

*: Any recap of Ainge's legacy needs to take into account the horrible luck the Celtics had with those 2 lottery picks sliding to #14.

EDIT: On the topic of Ainge, he had no difficulty in taking on bad contracts and rolling them over until the opportunity arose to use them as currency to pick up a good player (Wally Szczerbiak, Raef LaFrentz, Theo Ratliff). He certainly understood the value of bad contracts. I think part of the problem in Ainge's later years with the team is that their top contracts were players they intended to keep or became untradeable due to injury: Horford, Hayward (who became untradeable anyway), Kemba (ditto), etc.

I do get the feeling that Ainge did lose touch with the pulse of the players on his team. It seemed obvious to everyone except Ainge that Kyrie wasn't coming back, and so missed an opportunity to trade him. It became similarly obvious that Anthony Davis wasn't going to be thrilled to come to Boston. And useful veteran free agents in Horford and Marcus Morris bolted at the first opportunity, as did Terry Rozier. And that trend seemed to have started with Ainge mishandling a sensitive contract negotiation with UFA Ray Allen, who ended up taking his talents to South Beach. I realize that Ainge couldn't exactly call the players to his office and ask them whether they planned to resign with Boston or test the free agent market place and expect an honest answer. But it seems like there was at least a trend if not a pattern of players looking to leave at the first opportunity, and I don't think that had anything to do with Ainge trading IT4 to the Cavs.
 
Last edited:

pappymojo

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 28, 2010
6,733
Danny Ainge was a very good GM, Brad is an even better one.

They both have difference conceptions of what they want in a team - Danny being way more open to the small scoring PG than Brad is.

Brad has shown himself 1) to be way more concerned about roster fit than Danny was (perhaps because he knows firsthand what it is like to coach for a GM who is less focused on roster fit) but 2) shrewd enough to do that right. Bad GMs will hemorrhage talent trying to play for fit, Stevens doesn't. It is also obvious from the number of under the horizon deals Brad has made that he and the Celtics have scouted the league thoroughly enough to know what players they like should the opportunity arise to get them, whether that be perennial All-Star types (Jrue Holiday) or minimum salary guys (Xavier Tillman).

I think Brad is better at managing contracts (I don't mean player contract negotiations, I mean having contracts on hand that can be used in trades) and and working within the constraints of the salary cap. I think that is why he is so decisive. He knows that a bad contract still has value because of the cap rules. He got out from under Kemba's deal. Brad was criticized by some for bringing in Daniel Theis on a big (for his value) contract, but that deal was needed to acquire Brogdon. Brogdon was both a good move when Brad made it, even though it didn't uite work out, and a contract that could be moved when the opportunity to add Holiday arose. This year's deadline deals reflected, among other things, that Brad needed to change his approach a bit because of the second apron, and he did. He also saw how the use of second round picks as trade currency worked and went and added a bunch.

There was some consternation here over the Jaylen Brown max deal, given that it was at the time the biggest NBA contract ever signed and Brown is not even the best Celtic. No doubt Brad give Brown the deal because he believes in the Tatum/Brown Celtics. But also no doubt that he knows he can find a way out of that deal should the need arise.

I just think he sees the whole picture in a way that most GMs historically have not. And - and we cannot forget this - he has had supportive management willing to invest. That's not about his GM skills except to the extent that he has the trust of the owners.

We don't know how he will hold up in a rebuilding cycle - can when it becomes time to rebuild can he pivot seamlessly into a "talent acquisition" mode? But there is no reason to doubt that he can make this pivot when the need arises.
I think Danny is and has been a better GM. KG, Nets trade, Tatum trade back and draft.

Brad is doing a great job building around the current core, but there needs to be a core in the first place.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
13,261
I think Danny is and has been a better GM. KG, Nets trade, Tatum trade back and draft.

Brad is doing a great job building around the current core, but there needs to be a core in the first place.
The thing is, the current core is the result of collecting picks and hitting hard on two guys, Tatum and Brown.

That strategy is well-known and easily replicable: OKC, Orlando, Minnesota, and Denver are all examples of the "hit on 2 guys in the draft with similar timelines" strategy. The Embiid/Simmons Sixers, Steph Warriors, and KD Thunder were also examples of this.

It's really hard to go from that to the "probibitive title favorite if healthy" level. The Warriors were able to do it by getting KD in FA, but others weren't able to make it work, so far.

If I were OKC, and had a chance to swap Presti for Brad right now, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Squeezing out that extra 10-15% is a rarer skill than being able to start from a rebuild imo.
 

pappymojo

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 28, 2010
6,733
The original post said “It *feels* like Brad is much more creative and decisive with these kinds of moves than Danny was.” That I can agree with. These kinds of moves, however, are only a part of a GM’s responsibility. There are other kinds of moves, collecting picks and hitting on the picks you have collected, or pulling off a trade for one of the best players in the league, that need to be acknowledged. Brad is perfect for where the team is now. Danny was perfect for where the team was. Calling Danny very good to Brad’s great, is underselling how great Danny was in his time here.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
13,261
The original post said “It *feels* like Brad is much more creative and decisive with these kinds of moves than Danny was.” That I can agree with. These kinds of moves, however, are only a part of a GM’s responsibility. There are other kinds of moves, collecting picks and hitting on the picks you have collected, or pulling off a trade for one of the best players in the league, that need to be acknowledged. Brad is perfect for where the team is now. Danny was perfect for where the team was. Calling Danny very good to Brad’s great, is underselling how great Danny was in his time here.
People have given Danny plenty of appreciation for his rebuild. It was really, really well done, particularly given how much pressure he had to not deal Pierce and KG. Leveraging IT's unexpected pop to getting Horford and Hayward to sign was also really good stuff.

I guess I just follow the league as a whole a lot, and the particular way that Brad is adding to a team that was already a title contender is insanely impressive. He has spent far fewer draft resources than most "all in" teams, while getting better at the margins. Contrasting with Milwaukee and Philly is instructive here. The other thing that impresses me is how much he's been able to zig when others are zagging, in terms of the types of assets he acquires and spends.
 

HomeRunBaker

bet squelcher
SoSH Member
Jan 15, 2004
31,047
I think Danny is and has been a better GM. KG, Nets trade, Tatum trade back and draft.

Brad is doing a great job building around the current core, but there needs to be a core in the first place.
Yeah I was waiting for someone to defend Ainge here and the criticisms listed above. Totally disagree on the part about not having enough contracts compared to Brad which of course comes with not having a 15-man roster and more CBA flexibility. Ainge was the guy who made the Theo Ratliff move AND had all those contacts available to get the KG deal done which included having the assets to acquire Ray Allen first. He was brilliant at adding fit to his rosters with cheap FA signings such as Posey then later PJ Brown and Cassell. Unlike Brad, he used his low picks to draft for need in adding older rookies Big Baby and Powe. Having the cajones to trade Pierce and KG bc he felt so strongly (as did I back then) that Red screwed up by hanging onto Bird, McHale and Parish isn’t something many others could do.

Now some of the rebuilding stuff later on drove me nuts….trading up to draft Olynyk when in rebuilding mode, mucking up the Kyrie team with like 5 guys on expiring deals out to play for themselves so yeah at the end his roster construction was brutal but Ainge was well past his prime then. Prime Ainge was as good as anyone out there at building teams.
 

Spelunker

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 17, 2005
12,519
The thing is, the current core is the result of collecting picks and hitting hard on two guys, Tatum and Brown.

That strategy is well-known and easily replicable: OKC, Orlando, Minnesota, and Denver are all examples of the "hit on 2 guys in the draft with similar timelines" strategy. The Embiid/Simmons Sixers, Steph Warriors, and KD Thunder were also examples of this.

It's really hard to go from that to the "probibitive title favorite if healthy" level. The Warriors were able to do it by getting KD in FA, but others weren't able to make it work, so far.

If I were OKC, and had a chance to swap Presti for Brad right now, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Squeezing out that extra 10-15% is a rarer skill than being able to start from a rebuild imo.
Like, say, bringing in Sam Cassell and PJ Brown?

I'd choose Brad for this moment in time, but it's not like Danny didn't also make marginal moves to put a team over the top.
 

Pablo's TB Lover

Member
SoSH Member
Sep 10, 2017
6,144
The thing is, the current core is the result of collecting picks and hitting hard on two guys, Tatum and Brown.

That strategy is well-known and easily replicable: OKC, Orlando, Minnesota, and Denver are all examples of the "hit on 2 guys in the draft with similar timelines" strategy. The Embiid/Simmons Sixers, Steph Warriors, and KD Thunder were also examples of this.

It's really hard to go from that to the "probibitive title favorite if healthy" level. The Warriors were able to do it by getting KD in FA, but others weren't able to make it work, so far.

If I were OKC, and had a chance to swap Presti for Brad right now, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Squeezing out that extra 10-15% is a rarer skill than being able to start from a rebuild imo.
It's funny you phrase Brad as GM this way, because his departure from the coaching ranks seems to be borne out of his recognition that he couldn't get that last 10-15% as a coach. And he has been proactive in identifying the coaches which can help get that last little bit. First with Ime who tried to beat some humility into the boys to let the team know they haven't arrived yet...now Coach Joe who has hard-ass qualities yet also a "player's coach".
 

benhogan

Granite Truther
SoSH Member
Nov 2, 2007
20,871
Santa Monica
Yeah I was waiting for someone to defend Ainge here and the criticisms listed above. Totally disagree on the part about not having enough contracts compared to Brad which of course comes with not having a 15-man roster and more CBA flexibility. Ainge was the guy who made the Theo Ratliff move AND had all those contacts available to get the KG deal done which included having the assets to acquire Ray Allen first. He was brilliant at adding fit to his rosters with cheap FA signings such as Posey then later PJ Brown and Cassell. Unlike Brad, he used his low picks to draft for need in adding older rookies Big Baby and Powe. Having the cajones to trade Pierce and KG bc he felt so strongly (as did I back then) that Red screwed up by hanging onto Bird, McHale and Parish isn’t something many others could do.

Now some of the rebuilding stuff later on drove me nuts….trading up to draft Olynyk when in rebuilding mode, mucking up the Kyrie team with like 5 guys on expiring deals out to play for themselves so yeah at the end his roster construction was brutal but Ainge was well past his prime then. Prime Ainge was as good as anyone out there at building teams.
No doubt, there were two Dannys, Pre & Post Kyrie Era

Peak Danny was the best GM in the NBA.
Brad, after last summer's work, is hands-down the best GM in the NBA (& it's not particularly close)
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
22,848
Pittsburgh, PA
If I were OKC, and had a chance to swap Presti for Brad right now, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Squeezing out that extra 10-15% is a rarer skill than being able to start from a rebuild imo.
Do we have evidence that Presti isn't able to build from a good team into a true contender, and that his talents are merely limited to consistently winning trades involving draft picks? We're talking about a guy who played a large part in building the Spurs' dynasty, then went to the Sonics and drafted Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka (via clever trade machinations), and Harden in back-to-back-to-back years. They were a real contender, losing only to the Heatles, and the last gasp of the Duncan/Kawhi Spurs. He then screwed up by trying to nickel-and-dime James Harden, probably on the orders of ownership who didn't want to pay luxury tax, so the extent of blame we can lay at his feet is debatable. But how many execs can say they built a team as good as that Thunder squad? Since losing Durant, his team obviously hasn't been competitive, but the same is true of every contender, whose windows come in waves.
 

lovegtm

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
13,261
Do we have evidence that Presti isn't able to build from a good team into a true contender, and that his talents are merely limited to consistently winning trades involving draft picks? We're talking about a guy who played a large part in building the Spurs' dynasty, then went to the Sonics and drafted Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka (via clever trade machinations), and Harden in back-to-back-to-back years. They were a real contender, losing only to the Heatles, and the last gasp of the Duncan/Kawhi Spurs. He then screwed up by trying to nickel-and-dime James Harden, probably on the orders of ownership who didn't want to pay luxury tax, so the extent of blame we can lay at his feet is debatable. But how many execs can say they built a team as good as that Thunder squad? Since losing Durant, his team obviously hasn't been competitive, but the same is true of every contender, whose windows come in waves.
I think Presti is really good, and "can't build a contender" would be too strong, but I still want to see what he does with this current core.

By contrast, if you gave Brad OKC's roster and assets at the start of this year, I would be somewhat more confident about their championship upside. It's a marginal difference, but Brad has looked really really good in that role so far, and margins matter.
 

teddykgb

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
11,247
Chelmsford, MA
I have absolutely no evidence to support this but isn’t there a good chance we are basically just evaluating Zarren against himself? I have always read that he’s an absolute guru and it seems to me that both GMs likely benefit tremendously from his work
 

PRabbit

New Member
Apr 3, 2022
121
I have absolutely no evidence to support this but isn’t there a good chance we are basically just evaluating Zarren against himself? I have always read that he’s an absolute guru and it seems to me that both GMs likely benefit tremendously from his work
This is the point I was about to make. Good possibility Brad just lets Zarren pull the trigger on deals more often than Danny did. Also have to take into account that the Jays are entering their prime years now as opposed to 3-4 years ago when it didn't make sense to GFIN mode.
 

Eddie Jurak

canderson-lite
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 12, 2002
45,274
Melrose, MA
There are things Ainge did that Stevens hasn't yet been called on to do. Mainly the assembling and dissassembling of the Big 3, plus hitting well enough on enough of the Brooklyn picks to matter. Maybe had the ping pong balls fallen differently Ainge would have been a Durant guy and Brad in that spot an Oden guy.

On the other hand, while #1 and #2 on this team are Ainge holdovers, Aingle has never done anything like Brad's work to add #3, #4, #5, and #6. I remember the post 2008 years as a struggle to add the supporting cast that the Big 3 needed. (As well as for the catastrophic injury to KG).

I think what Brad has done will could serve him in rebuild/talent acquisition mode; that's my reason for thinking Brad is better.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 26, 2005
31,544
Do we have evidence that Presti isn't able to build from a good team into a true contender, and that his talents are merely limited to consistently winning trades involving draft picks? We're talking about a guy who played a large part in building the Spurs' dynasty, then went to the Sonics and drafted Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka (via clever trade machinations), and Harden in back-to-back-to-back years. They were a real contender, losing only to the Heatles, and the last gasp of the Duncan/Kawhi Spurs. He then screwed up by trying to nickel-and-dime James Harden, probably on the orders of ownership who didn't want to pay luxury tax, so the extent of blame we can lay at his feet is debatable. But how many execs can say they built a team as good as that Thunder squad? Since losing Durant, his team obviously hasn't been competitive, but the same is true of every contender, whose windows come in waves.
If we're being hyper-technical (and when are we not), since Presti already has built one team that has gone to the NBA finals and has a team that certainly has a chance of going to the NBA Finals, he has built teams squeezing out that extra 10-13%.

And as you mention, from all accounts it was an ownership decision, not a Presti decision, that lead to the dismantling of that team.

It will be interesting to see what Presti does with all of his assets. It's expensive to field a "true contender". The Cs are a $220M team; DEN is a $200M team; LAC is $340M team; GSW is a $400M team; etc. Plus Presti has drafted so well, there's no way he can pay everyone that he's drafted.

No doubt, there were two Dannys, Pre & Post Kyrie Era
The curse of Kyrie strikes again!
 

HomeRunBaker

bet squelcher
SoSH Member
Jan 15, 2004
31,047
I have absolutely no evidence to support this but isn’t there a good chance we are basically just evaluating Zarren against himself? I have always read that he’s an absolute guru and it seems to me that both GMs likely benefit tremendously from his work
If that’s the case let’s also say it’s Wyc vs Wyc as he is one of the leagues most hands-on owners with his GM’s. He’s well known for being the one is the ultimate decider.
 

InstaFace

The Ultimate One
SoSH Member
Sep 27, 2016
22,848
Pittsburgh, PA
If that’s the case let’s also say it’s Wyc vs Wyc as he is one of the leagues most hands-on owners with his GM’s. He’s well known for being the one is the ultimate decider.
Good point, Ainge gave Wyc credit for having him go back to Billy King and Nets ownership to demand, initially a third first-rounder, and then a 4th one (Before settling on accepting 3 plus a swap). For reading that the other side had "deal fever" and wouldn't walk away.

Some of the credit for both GMs' success definitely ought to go down to him being both involved and supportive. Not least because, when Stevens told him he was retiring from coaching, Wyc immediately pivoted to keeping him in-house as POBO, which was a pretty savvy management move given the likely amount of persuasion involved.
 

benhogan

Granite Truther
SoSH Member
Nov 2, 2007
20,871
Santa Monica
This is the point I was about to make. Good possibility Brad just lets Zarren pull the trigger on deals more often than Danny did. Also have to take into account that the Jays are entering their prime years now as opposed to 3-4 years ago when it didn't make sense to GFIN mode.
Everything points to Mike Zarren being the best CAP guy in the NBA.

I suspect Brad is doing the talent evaluation & figuring out which players fit together, which is the tougher piece of the puzzle IMO.
 

Smokey Joe

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 9, 2001
1,220
Do we have evidence that Presti isn't able to build from a good team into a true contender, and that his talents are merely limited to consistently winning trades involving draft picks? We're talking about a guy who played a large part in building the Spurs' dynasty, then went to the Sonics and drafted Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka (via clever trade machinations), and Harden in back-to-back-to-back years. They were a real contender, losing only to the Heatles, and the last gasp of the Duncan/Kawhi Spurs. He then screwed up by trying to nickel-and-dime James Harden, probably on the orders of ownership who didn't want to pay luxury tax, so the extent of blame we can lay at his feet is debatable. But how many execs can say they built a team as good as that Thunder squad? Since losing Durant, his team obviously hasn't been competitive, but the same is true of every contender, whose windows come in waves.
I think a better example would have been trading Daryl Morey for Brad. Morey has “won” a lot of trades in his career but never seems to be able to take talented teams across the finish line. He wasted James Hardens career while strip mining the Rockets future and now seems to be doing the same thing to Embiid and the 76ers.

OTOH Ainge once said that the best a GM can do is to keep the team competitive. After that, there’s an awful lot of luck involved. And Morey has kept them competitive.
 

teddykgb

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
11,247
Chelmsford, MA
If that’s the case let’s also say it’s Wyc vs Wyc as he is one of the leagues most hands-on owners with his GM’s. He’s well known for being the one is the ultimate decider.
More than willing to give him a ton of credit. He’s kept the management team strong and did well to get Stevens in there which was not an easy call at the time. I don’t think he’s behind many of the actual maneuvers, though, and in my view the Celtics have been uncommonly good at managing the cap rules and salary slot restrictions for years now. It has been their super power versus some other teams who have been able to accumulate ring chasers
 

HomeRunBaker

bet squelcher
SoSH Member
Jan 15, 2004
31,047
More than willing to give him a ton of credit. He’s kept the management team strong and did well to get Stevens in there which was not an easy call at the time. I don’t think he’s behind many of the actual maneuvers, though, and in my view the Celtics have been uncommonly good at managing the cap rules and salary slot restrictions for years now. It has been their super power versus some other teams who have been able to accumulate ring chasers
He’s been the first to say how he’s the final decision maker and Ainge has given him credit for his involvement in negotiations. Everything we’ve seen and heard has him heavily involved dating back to Ainge’s early drafts when he was working the phones.