He transformed the organization. A once proud Celtics franchise had hit rock bottom, finishing with a lowly 24 wins while setting a team record with 18 straight losses. Despite having the second worst record in the league the club had no luck at the draft lottery falling to the fifth pick and well outside the reach of Oden and Durant. Ainge flipped the script and instead of going young went out and landed two veteran all-stars in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, using his youthful pieces and friendly contracts as the bait. He did all this while holding onto franchise player Paul Pierce, and also Rajon Rondo. Danny soon went to work on his bench adding veterans to provide the framework surrounding his youthful supporting cast. Boston would turn it’s previous abysmal season into a regular season titan.
- Turned a lack of draft lottery luck into a valuable piece. Despite missing Oden and Durant in falling to the fifth pick, Ainge managed to use the pick as a primary chip to land all-star Ray Allen. The exact deal was Ray Allen, the 35th pick for Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, and the No.5 pick. The reaction from Boston and the media was mixed. Many were disappointed that Danny didn’t continue to add quality youth. The fifth pick was the highest selection Boston had held since the infamous 1997 draft. The 2007 draft was considered deep and talented. Ray was a 32 year old shooting guard on a maximum contract, he didn’t fit the profile. Ray was seen as last ditch resort because better options fell through which is fairly true but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some virtue to it. Personally I loved the deal, it was daylight robbery, Danny just mugged Sam Presti on national TV. Ray Allen had just finished his best statistical season averaging 26/4/4, he was still in the prime (tail end) of his career, and he only had one year more on his contract than Wally did. Wally or Ray? Ray right? Of course it’s Ray. So how much value did the other pieces have? Well the fifth pick was a doozy. The draft was top 4 heavy and had a huge drop off on the next pick, the rest of the draft was fairly even through the first round. Holding the fifth pick or the 15th pick (Stuckey) or the 27th pick (Tiago Splitter) didn’t matter much because the differences in talent level weren’t large enough. This was known before the draft and should have been given more consideration by Presti. Luckily for Danny he did not. As for Delonte, he isn’t much, very easy to replace. Eddie House signed later and has outplayed Delonte all season long. Delonte didn’t last long in Seattle, either did Wally for that matter. Now here’s the funny part, Danny even got the second round pick off of Presti. Remember the deep draft and all that. Well he nabbed Glen Davis who would have been a borderline lottery pick the year prior and could just have easily gone top 20 as 35th. Complete steal. Great trade by Danny.
- Brought Kevin Garnett in for Al Jefferson, an expiring contract (Theo) and loose change (Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Wolves No.1, Celtics No.1). Seven players for one player. A bunch of those are write offs (Green, Theo) and the others are low level (Gomes, Telfair, Celtics pick). The only one that mattered was Al Jefferson. 10-15 years of Al getting 20/10, who at the time of the trade was already a top 5 low post player in the league or 5-8 years of KG with 3-5 more of KG at an All-NBA level who in conjunction with Ray and Pierce would vault the Celtics to true contender? Tough call. I differ on most people because I firmly believe Al, Pierce, Ray and an upgraded veteran supporting cast was a contender. KG definitely brought them to another level with his defense and instant credibility but I thought they would have been a contender in the East anyway. No 66 win team though, closer to 52-57. So I don’t value this trade as highly as most. This deal is all about how Al Jefferson develops and how many titles KG wins in green. It probably can’t be evaluated until then. Instant contender in move …. that’s always good though, right? I think so. Very good trade.
- KG/Pierce/Ray would form the new Big Three. Capable of matching any teams best trio across the league.
- Danny held onto Doc Rivers (heck he even gave him an extension) despite several dissendant voices from fans and media alike. Doc has turned in a CoY season and has played a huge role in how quickly the team came together and also how focused it has remained.
- Following the KG trade the bench was fairly empty. Danny went out and added veterans Eddie House, Scott Pollard and James Posey to supply the help. Boston’s bench had gone from weak to respectable. Steady contributions from Glen Davis and Leon Powe only strengthened the crew. At mid-season Danny continued to strengthen the crew adding Sam Cassell and PJ Brown. Filling the remaining gaps at point guard and a defensive big.
- Boston set a new record for a single season turnaround eclipsing the previous 36 win record with a phenomenal mark of 42 wins more.
- Boston went on to become the league’s top defensive team. Danny added more quality defensive pieces than any other team in the league with Garnett as his anchor, Jame Posey, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Paul Pierce standing out. There’s not a single big man on the roster that’s a below average defender, that’s saying something. The expected weakest defenders coming into camp were Ray Allen and Eddie House and they’ve been far more intelligent defensively (team D) and better than advertised. The strong group defense helps hide their (Ray/Eddie) flaws but they’ve really stepped up to the plate also.
- Danny didn’t go out and add a veteran point. He trusted the young sparkplug out of Kentucky and allowed him the chance to run the show. Rajon Rondo has been one of the most improved players in the league and established himself as a solid starting point guard with a bright future. Nice call.
Daryl Morey had big shoes to fill when he arrived in Houston to replace Carroll Dawson, and it would be no easy first summer. Houston had just been knocked out in the first round again, their two star players had yet to taste a playoff victory. His head coach was unsure of his future and the Rocket’s were unsure of his. His point guard was being slammed in the media and that would only increase over the summer. But steadily, quietly, and consistently Daryl Morey strung together a few deals to create a brighter deal in Houston.
- He let Jeff Van Gundy go and replaced him with Rick Adelman. Just a great choice. Tracy McGrady was breaking his back trying to get shot attempts out of Van Gundy’s offense. They were predictable, dull and simply not good enough offensively. Van Gundy had taken the team far and improved it tremendously during his time there but there was a sense that he’d taken it as far as he could. The team needed a fresh start and a new system. Adelman was the perfect choice. A great coach, a player’s coach, an offensive genious, and a better defensive coach than he’s been given credit for. Adelman is currently a candidate for CoY, it’s working out great.
- Traded Juwan Howard to Minnesota for Mike James and Justin Reed. In Mike James, he took on an extra year of contract, but he added a player that just two seasons ago sparked a great Rocket’s run and fit the bill for what they needed. Toughness, outside shooting, energy, defense, more size at the point. Unfortunately Mike James never really found a role for himself in Houston and would be packaged off later. I still like the trade because James added a good skill set and could have contributed had Adelman given him minutes. Also because Howard was finished, useless and needed to be replaced.
- Drafted Aaron Brooks (26th) and acquired Landry (31st). Landry has had a sensational rookie season and combined with Scola he has provided one of the best one-two punches at power forward in the league. Brooks is an extremely talented young point guard. He blew up at summer league and was dominant at US practices with Bryant and several other vets coming away very impressed. His actual NBA season has been up and down. He’s looked good when he’s played but the team didn’t need scoring from the point and they desperately needed more experience so his game time vanished, but he’s very promising.
- Traded Spanoulis, 2009 2nd round pick to San Antonio for the draft rights to Luis Scola and Jackie Butler. Butler was the cost of the deal. Scola was the find, an excellent power forward in Europe and International basketball. Scola has been one of the league’s finest rookies this season and he’s made a huge contribution to a 54 win team. The team began it’s 22 game win streak when Scola moved into the starting lineup. His passing, intelligence, rebounding and clever scoring has been a big key to Houston’s offense. Since Yao has gone down he’s stepped up as Houston’s best big averaging 13ppg and 8rpg in 30 minutes a night.
- Signed Mike Harris. Waived Mike Harris at training camp, little choice. Signed Mike Harris again late on in the season. Mike was a big help in the close of the year. Nice pickup.
- Signed Steve Francis. Morey brought back the franchise, unfortunately injury ended any hope of him being a contributor to the team. I would have loved to have seen him be the primary scorer in that second unit and lead the bench night after night. Could have been sight. Might still be. Great pickup. Bad luck.
- Re-signed Dikembe Mutombo and Chuck Hayes. Deke has been vital since Yao went down, he’s their only interior presence defensively and a huge difference maker. Chuck Hayes started part of the season and has been a steady rotation player since. Two good defensive role players.
- Morey stayed quiet and confident throughout Houston’s early season struggles. Helping give Adelman the time he needed to get his new squad on board.
- Traded Bonzi Wells and Mike James to New Orleans for Bobby Jackson. I disliked the deal at the time and I still do. The one blemish on his season. I always felt Mike James could contribute but Bonzi was the kicker. He was the Rocket’s third best scoring option and only go-to scorer off the bench. He was gave Houston a second post option, an aggressive rebounder, and a player that got to the free throw line. He was fundamental in small ball lineups next to Yao because of his strong post play. He was vital to the team. They shouldn’t have let him go. They would have felt his loss come playoff time even with Yao on board, without Yao their offense has been difficult to watch. It didn’t help matters that Bonzi torched his old club when they met up either. The move wasn’t totally without virtue though. Bobby Jackson filled a big need, he was a veteran point that knew the system. Adelman had never gotten comfortable with any of the backup point guards, he wanted more experience and guidance out of the position and he wasn’t getting it. Jackson also knew the system inside and out from his Sacramento days, he’s been able to teach his teammates how to use the system better. I just don’t think he was as valuable as Bonzi Wells.
- 54 win season. 22 straight victories, second all-time. One of the league’s best defenses. Big contributions from more rookies than any other contender. Developing and exciting offense.
- Overall, he turned minimal flexibility and trade assets into several quality acquisitions (Scola, Landy, Jackson, Bonzi, Hayes, Deke, Brooks, Francis). In doing so he created the strongest Rocket’s supporting cast since it’s championship days.
Great chocies. Some were easy but still great.
- Lucked out with the No.1 draft pick. Selected Greg Oden over Durant. Great selection.
- Some overlapping credit for Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. Brandon Roy became an all-star this season while Aldridge developed himself into a solid starter and a go-to scorer. Both youngsters can get much better and are for the future.
- Also drafted Josh McRoberts, Taureen Green, Kaponen, Fernandez. Fernandez looks a truly great find while the others were solid low value picks.
- Traded Zach Randolph, Fred Jones and Dan Dickau to NY for Steve Francis and Channing Frye. This opened the door for Aldridge and added a quality backup big in Frye. This was a great move, addition by subtraction (and I like Randolph).
- Bought out Steve Francis. Another good move. They didn’t need his self centred ways, he wouldn’t have stepped aside for rookies and youngsters.
- Re-signed Travis Outlaw. Travis has become one of the best 6th men in the league. Great decision.
- Acquired James Jones. Steady role playing vet that supplys good defense and is one of the league’s finest three point shoots. Good vet. Gym rat. Great fit. Helpful throughout the season.
- Portland turned around their previous 26 win team into a .500 squad despite the loss of Greg Oden to injury for the whole season.
Detroit had a difficult summer ahead of them following their collapse against Cleveland in the Conference Finals. Break up the squad or not? Trade Sheed or not? Re-sign Billups or not? How much to spend on Billups? Can this crew get back to contention?
- He kept Flip Saunders on as coach. This really works against him.
- With the 15th pick of the draft Joe selected Rodney Stuckey. Stuckey has been a steal and I firmly believe he could have put forth a hefty challenge for RoY if he recieved more minutes and scoring opportunities. He’s an excellent penetrator, good disributor, good scorer, good passer, good ballhandler, great size and athletcisim, good defender. Very nice combo guard and a huge part of Detroit’s future.
- With the 24th pick of the draft Joe took Aron Afflalo. Afflalo has been Detroit’s best stopper since the first day of training camp. He’s a very mature (game wise) rookie who does a great job of staying within his capabilities and filling a role. He could be the next Bruce Bowen. Very talented young man.
- Traded Carlos Delfino to the Raps for two future 2nd round picks. This is a nothing deal. Delfino while talented had failed to establish himself in Detoirt and desperately needed a fresh start. I don’t think he would have had the season he has had he stayed with the Pistons. Undervalued on the trade but Joe didn’t have much of a choice.
- Re-Signed Chauncey Billups. Chauncey has returned the favour by putting in one of his best seasons to date. The deal is worth $60mil over 5 seasons with the fifth year a team option. Nice protection with the fifth year. I think Chauncey has lost a step and that his game has slipped a notch but he’s still a very effective floor general. He’s worth the money and likely will continue to be. Very nice move.
- Re-signed Amir Johnson. Great move by Joe Dumars. This kid is ridiculously talented. He’s had a solid season although I would have liked to have seen more, more minutes and more opportunites offensively. Very good young player.
- Signed Jarvis Hayes on a one-year contract worth $2.5mil. Hayes has been the best bench player, their bench’s leading scorer and the only veteran consistently playing off the bench. He’s been their (bench) leader. Great signing.
- Signed Cheik Samb. Young 7 footer, who while raw has good potential. Nice move.
- Signed Antonio McDyess to a contract extension. McDyess has been their best rebounder and a very good interior defender. He’s solidified that hole Ben Wallace left behind. Great move.
- Traded Nazr Mohammod to Charlotte for Primo Brezec and Walter Hermann. Unbelievable move. Incredible move. He rid himself of an awful contract for two expiring deals. This gives Joe the option of spending his MLE once again if he so chooses. Great move. Walter Hermann was a talented pickup although he hasn’t played. Brezec was a useful player too but he didn’t fit the profile (needed more interior play, didn’t play D or hit the boards hard enough).
- Traded Brezec to Toronto for Juan Dixon. Jury still out. Doesn’t look important. Not wild about either guy. Neither should crack the Pistons rotation.
- Signed Theo Ratliff. So far Theo has been a perfect fit. His interior defense has been a welcome addition and a great help. Nice insurance policy.
- Detroit won 59 games while having a top starting lineup and a top bench. Top defensive side. Top offensive side. Great guard play. Good play from bigs.
Joe did something incredible. He held onto his starting unit and kept his foundation while flooding his team with talented youth (Stuckey, Amir, Maxiell, Afflalo). At the same time Joe built the best bench Detroit has had since their title winning side (Hayes, youth, Theo).
Rebuilt the Lakers. Not just rebuilt, he built a potential dynasty.
- Drafted Javaris Crittenton (18th), Sun Yue (40th), and Marc Gasol (46th). Hate the Sun Yue pick, I don’t think he’s an NBA level player. Love the other two. Crittenton looked incredible in summer league and during limited NBA action. He’s one for the future, adds a little discpline and understanding to his game and he’s going to be something else. Marc Gasol was a nice pickup, looks a good backup centre.
- Re-Signed Luke Walton and Chris Mihm. Didn’t like the money they sent Walton’s way but he was hard to price and they needed to keep him. Signing Mihm was a good call, they needed another big and missed him sorely the season prior.
- Signed Coby Karl. I like Coby so giving him a plug. He’s an NBA player.
- Signed Derek Fisher. Great move. Fisher took huge pressure off of Kobe Bryant’s shoulders. Kobe trusts Derek, himself and Fish have an understanding on the court. Fish is a leader. A solid defender. A good perimeter shooter. A very good floor general. Everyone talks about the frontcourt but it’s their backcourt that makes them so tough. This is the 9th season Kobe and Fisher have played together, they’ve won countless games, playoff games, and 3 championship rings. They out-experience every backcourt in the league. They provide the toughness. They set the tone. They provide the leadership. They make sure the offense is executing. They step up when the team needs the bucket. They understand how to win and ensure their team is on the right track at all times. Fisher was an absolutely huge signing. Perhaps the most valuable signing of the off-season.
- The young bench he had built had begun to find it’s place in the league. Andrew Bynum (10th pick two years prior) became a leading candidate for MIP after averaging 13/10/2/2 over the first 35 games. Jordan Farmar (26th) had become the bench’s leading go-to scorer and floor general and bright young prospect. Turiaf (37th pick two years ago) brought energy, heart and hustle. He was the perfect utility player to fill gaps. Vujacic had continued to improve. Walton’s class and intelligence rounded out the group. Oh and veteran MLE signing Radmanovic finally began to find his way in the Triangle. The Lakers bench has been top 5 in ppg, rpg, FG%, assists all season long. Nice work with minimal assets.
- Signed Phil Jackson to an extension. Best coach in the league. Great move.
- Traded Mauric Evans and Brian Cook for Trevor Ariza. Ariza had great success following the move before his injury. He’s a keeper and a great fit in La-la-land. The other didn’t mean much at all to the Lakers. Great upgrade.
- Signed Ira Newble. Solid move. Fill the bench in Ariza’s absence, adds the defensive stopper they might need.
- Traded Aaron McKie, Javaris Crittenton, Kwame Brown, Marc Gasol and two future first round picks for Pau Gasol. He turned nothing into an all-star 7 footer with a low post game. A perfect fit for the Triangle with his intelligence, post moves, passing, shooting ability, high post play, mobility. Unbelievable trade. He pulled it off by taking advantage of a bad rule that allowed him to resign retired player McKie and package him as an expiring contract to help make the numbers work. This one move turned LA into a legitimate contender. Despite their early success they still needed a second scoring option next to Kobe (Odom wasn’t up to the job and Bynum wasn’t there yet), Gasol was exactly that.
This is all about Shaquille O Neal really.
- Made a few disgusting but neccessary deals to save money. Sending James Jones and Rudy Fernandez to Portland for cash. Sending Kurt Thomas and two first round draft picks to Seattle for a salary cap exception and a 2nd rounder, writing off 8mil of salary plus luxury tax payments.
- Drafted Alando Tucker and DJ Strawberry. Not sure what to make of either. Some promise but they haven’t shown much.
- Signed Grant Hill and Brian Skinner. Two excellent moves. Grant has taken a lot of pressure of Steve Nash. Grant’s ballhandling, passing, playmaking, intelligence and creativity were very much needed to stop a brilliant offense from becoming to predictable. His overall play was a huge reason Phoenix felt comfortable giving up Shawn Marion. He signed for the bi-annual exception (1.8mil, 2mil the following season) which makes him one of the league’s best bargains. Brian Skinner was a welcome replacement for Kurt Thomas, not as good as Kurt but for the minimum he more than hid those gaps. His defense, rebounding and suprising shooting ability have been great additions. He’s played less since Shaq joined. Useful player.
- Traded Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for Shaquille O Neal. Sacrificed a 17-10 player in his prime for a 36 year old no longer an all-star big man. Sacrificed their team’s style of play. Sacrificed the $60mil and three years remaining (including this season) on Shaq’s contract. Took a chance on a big man who hadn’t had much luck health wise in 18 months and was considered likely to only get worse. And it was brilliant. Shaquille had more left in the tank than most imagined but it was the other areas that shone brightest. Firstly, the money part, Banks had an awful contract. Marion had a bad contract and wanted a big extension. There was no extra financial risk. They would have had to pay Marion that to keep him anyway. Plus having Shaq helps merchandise, TV deals and all that. Secondly, Marion had poor trade value. He wasn’t a good enough scorer to bring back a top player. Thirdly, Amare Stoudemire needed more help under the glass. He was getting killed down there on a nightly basis. Out-manned, out-thought and out-muscled. He’s a weak defender and mediocre rebounder. It wasn’t working. Phoenix weren’t going to be a contender with their middle being so vulnerable. Shaq had brought the best out of Amare since joining the club. Amare gets to lunch on smaller four men these days. Fouth(ly), and most importantly, the Suns were not a contender before the trade and are now. Fifth, Nash only has limited time left at this level of performance, it was now or never. Sixth, the team had become stale and needed a jolt to spring it back to life. Great trade.
- Signed Goran Giricek on the minimum. The team was desperate for another wing and another shooter. Giricek has filled in beautifully.
He took one of the biggest risks I can remember and he pulled it off, and his reasons were such that we never should have called it a risk. But pretty much every last one of us did until we let it, I know I did. About 45 minutes later I started to get close to neutral, by the time Steve explained it I saw his brilliance. Excellent move.