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List: Danny Ainge’s best, worst draft day moves

06.23.11 at 8:37 am ET
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The Celtics’ season has been over for a while now, and if you’re still in mourning, we’re sorry. But it’s times like these when it’s best to look to the future, and in this case, that means Thursday’s NBA draft. The C’s have the 25th pick in a relatively thin class, but as history has shown, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge always is capable of creating some draft day drama. Here are a few of Ainge’s best moves when the Boston is “on the clock” (followed by a few he’d rather have back).

5. Drafting Ryan Gomes in the second round in 2005

Overall, the 2005 NBA draft was a disappointment for the Celtics (see below), but Ainge managed to pluck a promising talent out of the second round. Boston took Ryan Gomes of Providence with the 50th pick, one spot ahead of Robert Whaley and two spots behind Mickael Gelabale. Gomes started 33 games in his first year and 60 his second year, and ended up averaging 12.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in 2006-07. In the same fashion as Al Jefferson, Gomes saw his trade value increase with his breakout season, and he eventually was used as one of the many pieces in the Kevin Garnett trade.

Gomes never was a back-to-the-basket player in college and was vastly undersized in the NBA. Still, he’s managed to develop into a solid small forward for the Clippers and is averaging over 10 points per game in his career.

4. Trading for Kendrick Perkins in 2003

In his first year as general manager, Ainge had two first-round picks in one of the most talented draft classes in NBA history. No, he didn’t miraculously trade up for LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, or Dwyane Wade, but he did trade draft picks Dahntay Jones and Troy Bell to the Grizzlies for their first-round picks, Marcus Banks and Kendrick Perkins. You might only recognize one name from that transaction, but KP43 is the only one that mattered.

The post-defense powerhouse from Clifton J. Ozen High School in Texas made the most of his skill set and realized his full potential under the tutelage of Garnett en route to the 2007-08 NBA title. Boston fans still say Perkins could have made the difference in Game 7 against the Lakers in 2010, or against the Heat in 2011. With a fully healthy Perkins, Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo on the roster, the Celtics never lost a playoff series.

3. Trading for the draft rights to Rajon Rondo in 2006

Not many NBA executives could have predicted how dominant a point guard Rondo would become, but Ainge took a risk on the Kentucky star and it more than paid off. Rondo’s reputation had been somewhat sullied by talks of his shooting woes and attitude issues, but after a season with the likes of Banks, Ricky Davis, Orien Greene and Delonte West bringing up the ball for Boston, a move needed to be made.

Getting the pick wasn’t easy. Ainge traded Jiri Welsch to the Cavaliers for a 2007 first-rounder, which the Celtics flipped for the Suns’ first-rounder in 2006, which the C’s used to acquire Rondo.

The two-time All-Defensive Team selection proved his worth earlier than perhaps even Ainge expected, leading a lineup full of stars to a title in just his second year. More recently, Rondo wowed fans with his heroic efforts against the Heat in this year’s playoffs, somehow fighting through a gruesome injury to carry the Celtics down the stretch.

Warning: I said gruesome.

2. Drafting Al Jefferson, Delonte West and Tony Allen in 2004

After a disappointing 2003-04 season in which Boston finished 10 games under .500, it was clearly time to start the rebuilding process. The Celtics had a golden opportunity with three first-round picks in the 2004 draft, and Ainge did not disappoint. In a draft that had Shaun Livingston, Rafael Araujo and Luke Jackson picked in the top 10, the Celtics added three quality contributors in Jefferson, West and Allen.

The only player from that draft on the current Celtics roster, West was brought back this past season to give Rondo some rest. West is a good passer and ball-handler and a career 37 percent 3-point shooter. His only problem is that he was a Cavalier during Boston’s championship run.

Jefferson developed slowly but broke out in his third year (2006-07), averaging a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds per game. This performance skyrocketed Jefferson’s trade value, allowing Ainge to use him as a key piece in the trade for Garnett. Jefferson has become a force down low for Utah, as he averaged 18.6 points per game for the Jazz this past season.

Allen played the first six years of his career in Boston, starting 34 games as a rookie. He eventually became a role player off the bench, but his defensive presence was irreplaceable on the perimeter. Allen was regarded as one of the NBA’s top defensive players with the Grizzlies this past season, although he claims he’ll always bleed green.

1. Trading for Ray Allen in 2007

With a horrendous 24-58 record in the 2006-07 season and Greg Oden and Kevin Durant waiting in the top two draft slots, the Celtics were hoping to hit it big in the lottery in 2007. The C’s ended up striking gold, but not the way anyone expected. The ping pong balls bounced Boston to the fifth pick, encouraging Ainge to mix things up. He traded the No. 5 pick along with West and Wally Szczerbiak to Seattle for Allen and the 35th pick in the draft, which the Celtics used to get Glen Davis. Instead of getting the top pick and perhaps wasting it on the injury-plagued Oden, Ainge managed to acquire two key components of the championship run with one move. Several days later, Ainge traded for Garnett, and the rest, as they say, is history.

DRAFT DAY MISTAKES

The Celtics’ draft resume has been nearly flawless in the Ainge era, but the 2007 Executive of the Year has made his fair share of mishaps over the past few years.

Drafting Gerald Green in 2005

The Celtics put together a 45-37 season in 2004-05, good enough for first place in the Atlantic Division and the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. However, the C’s suffered an early playoff exit at the hands of the Pacers, who pulled off a seven-game upset. After the series, Ainge identified Boston’s need for a sharp shooter and a low-post presence.

Ainge was spot-on in assessing the Celtics’ problems, and with the 18th, 50th and 53rd picks in the 2005 draft, he had several chances to find a solution.

Unfortunately for Boston fans, Ainge selected Green, a high school product, at No. 18. An athletic, high-flying guard, Green made the highlight reel once or twice but didn’t have nearly enough shooting accuracy to fill the Celtics’ holes. After being bounced around the league for five years, Green wound up playing in a Russian basketball league.

Nobody said drafting was easy, but the right players were out there. Monta Ellis, David Lee and Brandon Bass were still on the board at 18.

On the bright side, Green was part of the trade that brought Garnett to Boston, and hey, the dunks were a nice diversion during two tough seasons for the Celtics:

Trading for Sebastian Telfair in 2006

I know, it’s almost ludicrous to think Ainge made a mistake during the 2006 draft because the Celtics ended up with Rondo.

Still, just a few hours prior, Ainge made what could have been a fatal error. With the seventh overall pick, the C’s took Randy Foye, a star at Villanova but a non-factor at the next level. Boston quickly traded Foye and two others to Portland for Telfair, Theo Ratliff and a 2008 second-round pick. At the time, Telfair headlined the trade. But here’s the important part: Portland then sent Foye to Minnesota for the No. 6 pick, Brandon Roy.

In the end, it seemed the Celtics could have acquired Roy — who despite injuries proved to be one of the NBA’s premiere talents — for as little as Foye or Telfair and filler.

Yes, Ainge then traded a future first-round pick to Phoenix for Rondo’s draft rights. And yes, Rondo grew into one of the league’s best point guards. But if the Celtics were left with nothing but the scraps from the Telfair trade, the team could have been mired in mediocrity for years.

It’s a reality Boston fans will never have to know. But seriously, can you imagine a healthy Roy in Boston?

Drafting J.R. Giddens over DeAndre Jordan in 2008

As the reigning NBA champions with the last pick in the first round, the Celtics knew there would be limited talent to choose from in the 30th spot. All the same, Ainge could have done a lot better than drafting Giddens out of New Mexico. Giddens appeared in just 27 games in two years with Boston before being traded to the Knicks with Eddie House and Bill Walker for Nate Robinson.

The wasted pick stung even more with the rapid improvement of Jordan, who was picked 35th by the Clippers. Jordan, a burly 6-foot-11 center from Texas A&M, averaged seven points and seven boards this season and provides the rare combination of size and athleticism in the Clippers front court.

Read More: Al Jefferson, Danny Ainge, Delonte West, Gerald Green Print  |  Email  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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