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Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades: 5. Goodbye, Kendrick Perkins 10.05.15 at 2:27 pm ET
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Over the next month, we’ll chronicle the 25 most consequential trades of Danny Ainge’s tenure as Celtics president of basketball operations. When we’re done, we’ll have a better understanding of Ainge’s philosophy and success rate on the trade market. Perhaps by the end of this exercise we’ll even feel better about the future of this rebuild. At the very least, we’ll have something interesting to debate while we wait for preseason to play out.

With that out of the way, here’s No. 5 on the list of Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades.

Feb. 24, 2011: Goodbye, Kendrick Perkins.

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Read More: 25 most consequential trades, Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Jeff Green
Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades: 6. Hello, Isaiah Thomas 09.30.15 at 4:20 pm ET
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Over the next month, we’ll chronicle the 25 most consequential trades of Danny Ainge’s tenure as Celtics president of basketball operations. When we’re done, we’ll have a better understanding of Ainge’s philosophy and success rate on the trade market. Perhaps by the end of this exercise we’ll even feel better about the future of this rebuild. At the very least, we’ll have something interesting to debate while we wait for preseason to play out.

With that out of the way, here’s No. 6 on the list of Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades.

July 10, 2014: Hello, Tyler Zeller.

ARRIVING in Boston

  • Marcus Thornton: In order to shed salary for the return of LeBron James, Cleveland essentially sent Jarrett Jack to Brooklyn for Thornton, and Boston took the latter’s expiring $8.6 million contract off the Cavaliers, hands.  While on the Celtics, Thornton continued to be what he’d been in his five previous seasons — a productive scorer off the bench who wasn’t worth the four-year, $31 million deal Sacramento signed him to in 2011.
  • Tyler Zeller: The 7-foot North Carolina did what most players have done under Celtics coach Brad Stevens — develop in almost every respect. Zeller averaged 17.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per 36 minutes last season, taking strides as a mid-range jump shooter and rim protector. A year later, Cleveland’s 2012 first-round pick still has a year left on his rookie contract and doesn’t become a restricted free agent until next summer.
  • Cleveland’€™s 2016 first-round pick (top-10 protected): Granted, this pick will fall in the late 20s come June, if not 30th overall, but even the lowest first-round pick is a valuable asset in a league that protects them dearly.

DEPARTING to Cleveland

  • $10.3 million trade exception: The Celtics also included a conditional second-round pick that never came to fruition, so this is all they gave up — the trade exception created upon dealing Paul Pierce‘s salary to Brooklyn.

Feb. 19, 2015: Hello, Isaiah Thomas.

ARRIVING in Boston

  • Isaiah Thomas: Playing in a crowded Suns backcourt behind Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, Thomas was in the midst of a Sixth Man of the Year-worthy campaign, averaging 15.2 points on nearly 40 percent shooting off the bench. The 5-foot-9 point guard added 3.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 25.7 minutes a night over his 46 games in Phoenix — consistent with the 36-minute averages that made him one of the league’s most efficient players in Sacramento. He was even better in Boston, averaging 19.0 points and 5.4 assists in 26 minutes. Oh, and he’s working on one of the league’s best contracts, which declines from $6.9 million each year through 2017-18.

DEPARTING to Phoenix

  • Marcus Thornton: After leaving the Celtics, Thornton was stuck on the end of the Suns bench. He scored a total of 32 points in nine appearances for Phoenix, and then missed 14 of the final 15 games with a toe injury.
  • Cleveland’€™s 2016 first-round pick (top-10 protected): See? Told you low first-round picks are still valuable.

There may be a handful of Ainge’s trades more consequential than this one, but you won’t find any more creative.

In some serious origami, Ainge turned a piece of paper into Tyler Zeller and Isaiah Thomas. Actually, I’m not even sure trade exceptions are printed on pieces of paper. They might just be in the ether. In which case, Ainge literally pulled a 24-year-old starting center and a Sixth Man of the Year candidate out of thin air. Is that good? I think that’s good.

There isn’t much more you can say about how this shook out for the Celtics, to be honest. It’s some Gandalf-level stuff.

Read More: 25 most consequential trades, Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Isaiah Thomas
Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades: 7. Goodbye, Rajon Rondo 09.24.15 at 10:24 am ET
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Over the next month, we’ll chronicle the 25 most consequential trades of Danny Ainge’s tenure as Celtics president of basketball operations. When we’re done, we’ll have a better understanding of Ainge’s philosophy and success rate on the trade market. Perhaps by the end of this exercise we’ll even feel better about the future of this rebuild. At the very least, we’ll have something interesting to debate while we wait for training camp to open.

With that out of the way, here’s No. 7 on the list of Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades.

Dec. 18, 2014: Goodbye, Rajon Rondo.

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Read More: 25 most consequential trades, Danny Ainge, Jae Crowder, NBA
Celtics boss Danny Ainge explains why he considers Stephen Curry, not Larry Bird, best shooter of all time at 1:06 am ET
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Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry

Danny Ainge spent nearly eight seasons alongside Larry Bird, the man many consider the greatest shooter in NBA history, so he doesn’t say the following lightly: Stephen Curry is the best shooter he’s ever seen.

Ainge made the observation on Twitter during the playoffs, which ended with Curry’s Warriors claiming the title, and he explained himself earlier this week in an interview with WEEI.com from his Waltham office.

“I think Larry was as good a shooter as I’ve ever seen before Steph. And Ray Allen is up there, too,” Ainge said. “If anybody were to come in and tell me, ‘Larry Bird‘s the best shooter of all time,’ I wouldn’t have much argument. Same with Ray. I probably wouldn’t argue. It’s really close.

“The reason I think Steph is the best shooter of all time is simply the variety of shots he hits. Left-handed running hook shots, reverses, floaters, 3-point shots off the dribble, behind screens. It’s the variety and the degree of difficulty of the shots he hits.”

Ainge, who was no slouch in the shooting department himself (.378 lifetime on 3’s and .846 on free throws), got an up-close-and-personal look at Bird’s ability to score while surrounded by multiple defenders, but for sheer creativity, he’s going with Curry.

“That’s why I think Larry was always my first guy of being the best shooter of all time, up until Steph,” Ainge said. “To me, it was the difficulty of shots he made. I mean, Larry could shoot with two guys draped on him, and I used to play Larry one-on-one often before practice. I would be right on him and turn around, and the ball would be going in the basket. That’s what was always amazing to me, how he was able to create that shot and get that shot off with very little space. I see the same qualities in Steph.”

Read More: Danny Ainge, Larry Bird, Steph Curry, Stephen Curry
Sadly, Tyler Zeller concedes Celtics won’t finish 82-0 this season 09.23.15 at 1:16 pm ET
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Brad Stevens couldn't be more excited about the 2015-16 NBA season. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Brad Stevens couldn’t be more excited about the 2015-16 NBA season. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

When Celtics coach Brad Stevens says, “We have to play better than last year overall to make the playoffs again,” it’s not merely a motivating tactic in hopes of curbing complacency. He’s right.

If the C’s finish with the same 40-42 record they produced in 2014-15, they may not only fail to claim a No. 7 seed again, but miss the playoffs entirely. Just about every Eastern Conference team that finished below Boston last season has since upgraded its roster, save for the 76ers.

“From a coaching standpoint, I always go into a season looking at what I think we’€™ll be able to do well, and I think you look at what your potential challenges will be,” Stevens told the media gathered at Old Sandwich Golf Club in Plymouth for the team’s annual charity golf fundraiser. “So, I just look at it more as a job. I don’€™t look at it as what expectations are from results.

“We have such a long way to go to be where we want to be. We have to play better than last year overall to make the playoffs again. The East is better. Teams that didn’€™t make it really improved. We were as close to 12th as we were to fourth, so time will tell if we make the right strides, but if we take shortcuts or if we’€™re not connected, then we won’€™t. So, that’€™s our job.”

In what has also become an annual tradition, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge offered his list of contenders for the Eastern Conference crown this season.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, NBA
Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger face contract extension conundrum 09.22.15 at 11:54 am ET
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Tyler Zeller

Tyler Zeller

As anticipated, negotiations between the Celtics and their trio of players entering the final year of their rookie contracts — Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller and Perry Jones III — haven’t moved beyond an initial discussion.

“I’ve had preliminary conversations with the representatives of those players, and we’ll see how it goes in October,” team president Danny Ainge said from Plymouth, where the C’s hosted their annual charity golf tournament to benefit the Shamrock Foundation. “We have until October to make those decisions, and we’ll see how training camp goes.”

Ainge and the agents for Sullinger and Zeller are expected to be far apart on negotiations. The C’s will seek team-friendly deals for a pair of players who haven’t established themselves as anything beyond role players, while those two — as all free agents will be — are anticipating hefty raises when the salary cap balloons $20 million in 2016. As for Jones, he may not even make the roster, so he won’t be signing an extension for an entirely different reason.

“Obviously, it would be nice to have an extension, just because it’s a little more security, but at the same time you’ve got to approach the year, and you can’t be heartbroken if you don’t get it,” said Zeller, one of two players (Jonas Jerebko) at the charity golf event. “You have to be fully prepared. Either way, I’ve got to do my job this year. I have one more year on my contract, so I’ve got to go out and do as much as I can to help our team this year.”

While Sullinger was not present Tuesday, his father was in a foursome at Plymouth’s Old Sandwich Golf Club. The Celtics brass has not seen Satch Sullinger’s son this summer, as the fourth-year big man is not one of eight players working out in Waltham, but Ainge has followed Jared Sullinger’s training regimen on social media. Sort of.

“My eyes aren’t good enough to see the Twitter pictures, nor do I believe most of the Twitter pictures, but I’m not worried about that,” said Ainge, who has criticized Sullinger’s conditioning in the past. “I know Jared is putting in the work this summer. It’s a big year for him and for us, and I’m confident he’s going to have a terrific year.”

But there’s at least a chance neither Sullinger nor Zeller will earn the starting positions they held at various points last season, since the arrival of veterans David Lee and Amir Johnson presents a logjam in the frontcourt. And that could present a problem for a pair of players who need playing time now to increase their value next summer.

“It’s one of those things where hopefully your play speaks for itself,” said Zeller. “You’ve just got to go and find your little niche and what your team needs, where you fit, and hopefully that will kind of talk for itself and get you playing time. And if it doesn’t, you’ve just got to keep working and keep trying to find a spot for you.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Jared Sullinger, NBA
Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades: 9. Hello, Kendrick Perkins 09.11.15 at 1:45 pm ET
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Over the next month, we’ll chronicle the 25 most consequential trades of Danny Ainge’s tenure as Celtics president of basketball operations. When we’re done, we’ll have a better understanding of Ainge’s philosophy and success rate on the trade market. Perhaps by the end of this exercise we’ll even feel better about the future of this rebuild. At the very least, we’ll have something interesting to debate while we wait for training camp to open.

With that out of the way, here’s No. 9 on the list of Danny Ainge’s 25 most consequential trades.

June 26, 2003: Hello, Kendrick Perkins.

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Read More: 25 most consequential trades, Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Kendrick Perkins
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