If Danny Ainge Doesn't Cast Aside His Passivity, the Celtics Won't Catch the Cavs 3
Jul 5, 2013; Waltham, MA, USA; General Manager Danny Ainge talks about hiring new Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, center, as owner Wyc Grousbeck, right, listens in during a news conference announcing Stevens new position. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

After rejecting a deal from the Chicago Bulls, where they would’ve acquired Jimmy Butler, Boston Celtics’ general manager Danny Ainge continues to show his passive mentality when it comes to running his team. If that mentality doesn’t change, the Celtics will not surpass the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference this upcoming season.

With the NBA draft now just hours away, the trade talk around the association has never been hotter. Ranging from the future of Paul George to Kristaps Porzingis being shopped by the Knicks, to even LeBron James potentially leaving Cleveland in a year, the NBA rumor mill has been brewing at ease.

One team though, that has been at the center of attention is the Boston Celtics. With a number of intriguing young players and draft picks on their side, the Celtics without a doubt have the tools to make a headline move on or before draft night. However, despite being involved in a bevy of rumors, general manager Danny Ainge is yet to make a move. In fact, a recent development, in regards to a potential deal on the table that he rejected is rather disturbing and sends the wrong message.

According to Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago, the Celtics reportedly received an offer from the Chicago Bulls about trading for Jimmy Butler. In the reported deal, the Bulls offered the Celtics Butler for the number three pick in the draft straight up. Ainge, though, rejected the deal; him doing so makes no sense.

For starters, after being essentially embarrassed in the Eastern Conference Finals versus the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Celtics need to be all-in on the 2017-18 season; that desperate mentality that should be present also takes on a life of its own when you take into the account the future of point guard Isaiah Thomas.

May 17, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) drives to the basket past Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) during the first half in game one of the Eastern conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas, the heart and soul of the Celtics, will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Regardless of what people want to believe about him staying with Boston, the reality is that the possibility that he departs next summer does exist; that should be scaring Boston into going all in on this upcoming season. However, Ainge and the Celtics have given off a rather odd impression to the league by rejecting this deal.

Over the past few years, Butler has become one of the best all-around players in the league. He is arguably the best defender at his position and can score in a number of ways. Ranging from his ability to post-up, play in isolation and go one-on-one with anyone in the association, Butler is a force on the offensive end. That scoring prowess, coupled with his elite play on the defensive end make him a top 20 player in the league.

Given the situation the Celtics are in, Butler would be a perfect addition; he’d give them another go-to scoring option behind Thomas and would be an upgrade to Avery Bradley at the two guard.

However, despite the elite player that he is, the Celtics still declined a more than fair trade proposal for him.

While possessing a top five pick can be extremely valuable, the Celtics are not a team who should be in dire need of selecting a young up and comer. Also, while that pick could pan out to be a promising player, there’s no guarantee that whoever they select pans out to be a star; that’s where rejecting this Butler deal makes little to no sense.

Butler is an already established two-way stud and is already more of a sure thing than anyone in this draft class. His addition to the Celtics could without a doubt make them a formidable threat to the Cavs in the East, as he could potentially contain Lebron James. He’d also give Boston a lethal backcourt duo which would feature himself and Thomas.

Apr 16, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) goes to the basket past Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) and center Kelly Olynyk (41) during the third quarter in game one of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Another key thing to remember is the plethora of draft picks the Celtics possess throughout the next four seasons. With 11 first round picks at their disposal from this year to the 2020 NBA Draft, the Celtics can afford to surrender a top draft pick, if not more to pull off a blockbuster deal.

By not trading away their first round pick, Ainge and the Celtics continue to prove that they’re not necessarily operating with a desperate mentality – something which they should be doing.

This is a Celtics team which isn’t exactly a youthful group. In fact, their two primary players (Thomas and Al Horford) are 28 and 31 years of age. They’re both in the primes of their career now. With that in mind, Ainge should be operating around their timeframes. By rejecting this Butler deal, which would be a complete steal for the Celtics given that they wouldn’t be surrendering any players under contract, Ainge looks like a general manager who isn’t about winning in the short term.

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The Celtics need to act quickly before their window for success closes. By adding Butler or even Paul George (while maybe not the player Butler is) the Celtics get a piece that, at the very least, gives them a better chance at knocking off the Cavs.

Ainge is showcasing a passive mentality right now – one that will hurt the Celtics if not adjusted. While the team they currently have assembled is a very good unit, it’s simply not enough to get past the Cavs. If Ainge doesn’t acquire Butler or any other top-tier player on the trade block, the Celtics will not surpass the Cavs in the Eastern Conference.

 NEXT: 2017 NBA Mock Draft Roundtable: ESNY Experts’ Picks 


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Robbie Stratakos

Robbie Stratakos is a New York Knicks/Giants Beat Writer for Elite Sports NY (ESNY); he also covers the NBA nationally. He previously wrote at Last Word On Pro Basketball and Empire Writes Back. In addition to writing for ESNY, Robbie is an MLB columnist at Baseball Essential. He previously wrote at HardBallScoop – part of Scout/CBS Interactive/247Sports, Last Word On Baseball and District On Deck. He is attending Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. Follow him on twitter @RPStratakos