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Five best Celtics draft day moves of Danny Ainge era

06.27.12 at 7:05 pm ET
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When he was hired as Celtics president of basketball operations in 2003, Danny Ainge was asked to bring the team back to its glory days from when he was a player on the team in the 1980s.

It may have taken a few years to fit the right pieces together, but it’s hard to argue Ainge’s success in his nine-year tenure as president. He’s made some questionable decisions, but he’s also responsible for bringing the Celtics their first championship in over two decades. With the NBA draft taking place Thursday night, here’s a look at five of Ainge’s best draft day moves.

5. Kendrick Perkins, 27th pick, 2003 ‘€“ In the same deal that brought Boston one of its most disappointing acquisitions of the Ainge era in Marcus Banks, the Celtics also acquired Perkins, who proved to be one of the Celtics’€™ most valuable additions of the Ainge era. After barely getting playing time during his rookie season, he slowly moved into the rotation and developed into a dominant defensive center who repeatedly shut down the league’€™s best big men.

After Mark Blount was traded in 2006, Perkins became the regular starting center for the Celtics. He went on to start 78 games in 2007-08 and was a big contributor to the championship team that season. He was such a key contributor that in 2010, when the Celtics reached the NBA finals again, his inactivity in Game 7 after tearing his MCL and PCL in Game 6 has been argued to be the reason why the Celtics didn’€™t win their second championship in three seasons.

Where is he now?: Perkins was traded to the Thunder in 2011 in what is considered to be a questionable move by Ainge. Perkins signed a multi-year extension with Oklahoma City and this month made an NBA finals appearance against the Heat.

4. Avery Bradley, 19th pick, 2010 ‘€“ Bradley has only been in the league for two seasons ‘€“ and only one seeing consistent playing time with the Celtics ‘€“ but he makes this list due in large part to his value toward the end of this season. He saw 5.2 minutes per game as a rookie and spent most of his time with the Maine Red Claws in the development league, but he quickly developed into a consistent producer in the Celtics rotation in 2011-12.

That was in large part due to the aging Ray Allen and the need for young, fresh legs off the bench to complement Rajon Rondo. Bradley provided that, and when Allen was sidelined with an ankle injury late in the regular season, he was promoted to the starting lineup, where he asserted himself as a top defender of the team for the remainder of the season, which was highlighted by an impressive block on Dwyane Wade in a regular-season game. Bradley quickly became a headache for opposing teams’€™ top scorers with his aggressive defensive style.

In the second round against the 76ers, Bradley suffered a dislocated shoulder, which forced him to end his season prematurely and undergo surgery. His presence was sorely missed, as an ailing Allen was forced back into the starting lineup and struggled for the most part.

Where is he now?: While several members of the Celtics are currently exploring their options for next season, Bradley is considered a shoe-in to return from surgery successfully and resume his role in the starting lineup in 2012-13.

3. Al Jefferson, 15th pick, 2004 ‘€“ In a successful 2004 draft in which the Celtics also took Delonte West and Tony Allen in the first round, Jefferson was selected straight out of high school and didn’€™t seem to suffer any setbacks in his transition to the pros. As the first high schooler drafted in Celtics history (Perkins technically was drafted by the Grizzlies), Jefferson didn’€™t disappoint.

Jefferson played quality minutes off the bench during his first two seasons in the league but was suddenly shifted into a starting role in 2006-07 when Perkins went down with an injury. Jefferson made the most of his opportunity and averaged 16.3 points and 11.1 rebounds in his first seven games as a starter, which included a game in which he scored 29 points and 14 rebounds and put himself on the map as one of the top emerging big men.

Where is he now?: In light of his breakout performances, Ainge used Jefferson’€™s trade value as part of the blockbuster deal that brought Kevin Garnett to the Celtics. Jefferson played three seasons in Minnesota before moving on to Utah, where he has spent the last two seasons. For his career, ‘€œBig Al’€ is averaging 16.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.

2. Rajon Rondo, 21st pick, 2006 ‘€“ In the same draft in which Ainge made a trade he would rather forget, to land Sebastian Telfair, he also made a trade with the Suns to bring Rondo to the Celtics. That is something Ainge would like to remember all of. The story of Rondo is much-documented. After Rondo shared time during his rookie season with Telfair and West, both were traded to make room for the 6-foot-1 point guard out of Kentucky.

The rest is history. Rondo has blossomed into one of the NBA’€™s best point guards and was one of the biggest reasons why the Celtics were able to reach the Finals twice in the last five seasons, including taking home the title in 2008. Rondo consistently puts up double figures in points and assists and is no stranger to triple-doubles, a category in which he ranks among the best in NBA history.

Rondo also seems to step up his game in the playoffs. In 92 career postseason games, he averages 14.5 points, 9.2 assists and 2.0 steals per game. This season, Rondo had the best statistical postseason of his career, averaging 17.3 points, 11.9 assists and 2.4 steals in 19 games as he led an aging and injury-depleted Celtics team to the doorstep of the NBA finals.

Where is he now?: Rondo is signed with the Celtics through 2014-15. At 26 years old, he is just entering the prime of his career and figures to be part of the Celtics’ plans for the long-term future.

1. Trade for Ray Allen and Glen Davis, 2007 ‘€“ In what was arguably the best Celtics draft day move since Paul Pierce was drafted in 1998, Ainge pulled the trigger on the first of two blockbuster trades in the summer of 2007 that has shaped the Celtics ever since. With the No. 5 pick, the Celtics selected Jeff Green but quickly shipped him to Seattle (now Oklahoma City) for Allen and Davis.

The trade was just as important as the one that came after, as Ainge pulled off another blockbuster deal to bring Garnett to Boston and form the Big Three with Pierce. The trio, of course, went on to win 66 games and the team’€™s first championship since 1986. During his career in Boston, Allen has further cemented himself as one of the best 3-point shooters of all-time. He passed Reggie Miller for the most all-time 3-point field goals made in 2011.

Overlooked in the 2007 draft day trade was the acquisition of Davis, who provided minutes off the bench during the championship run. He became even important in the 2009 postseason, filling in for the injured Garnett as he averaged 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, which prompted trade demands from the unsatisfied forward.

Where are they now?: Allen is a free agent and is exploring options between returning to the Celtics and going elsewhere, possibly to the Heat. Davis is signed with the Magic through 2014-15.

Honorable mention: Ryan Gomes, 50th pick, 2005; Delonte West, 24th pick, 2004; Tony Allen, 25th pick, 2004; Leon Powe, 49th pick, 2006

Read More: Al Jefferson, Avery Bradley, Celtics, Danny Ainge
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