Danny Ainge gets revenge

Aaron Frutman | Wikimedia Commons

Aaron Frutman | Wikimedia Commons

Jason Chen

After his team’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets in the 2021 National Basketball Association playoffs, Danny Ainge announced his retirement from the Boston Celtics as President of Basketball Operations. Ainge was later hired by the Utah Jazz with expectations that he would lead the Jazz back to playoff prominence. However, that didn’t occur as the Jazz were dismantled by the Dallas Mavericks.

With tensions between guard Donovan Mitchell and center Rudy Gobert, alongside the pressure of the fanbase, Ainge had to make his move. Or rather his revenge, as he set his eyes on the perfect opportunity: the 2022 NBA offseason.

The Jazz were an afterthought when the offseason began. The focus was Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant requesting a trade on June 30. The suitors for Durant were the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and the Phoenix Suns. Also, Nets guard Kyrie Irving appeared to be headed to the Los Angeles Lakers as the rumors swirled.

Ainge, a former Celtics executive and player, couldn’t let Miami, Boston or Los Angeles outmaneuver him. He had to make sure that the Celtics and the Heat didn’t get Durant. The Celtics and the Heat, who went to the finals and conference finals, respectively, would get better if Durant were on their teams.

Ainge’s first move was to incentivize the Nets not to trade Durant. Ainge, knowing that Durant had three years remaining on his deal, realized that the Nets had all the power in the Durant talks, so he traded Royce O’Neal to them on June 30. As Brian Windhorst said, “it was a very strange trade.” At first glance, the trade was irrelevant since O’Neal is a role player, but it led to the next move.

Ainge’s second move shocked the league when he traded Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverly, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler and four first-round picks on July 7. Since Durant is vastly considered the superior player by most of his peers, NBA executives and fans, the Nets would then obviously want a similar, if not substantially larger, trade package.

The Celtics, Heat and Suns subsequently fell out of trade talks. The Heat doesn’t have the assets, the Celtics would’ve had to include more than Jaylen Brown and the Suns would’ve had to give up center Deandre Ayton alongside multiple first-round picks.

Ainge’s third move made sure that his rival from his Celtics days, the Lakers, did not get Irving. Irving would’ve automatically made the Lakers a contender. Ainge purposely traded Patrick Beverly to the Lakers for guard Talen Horton Tucker and forward Stanley Johnson. The Lakers couldn’t get Irving, as Beverly would be the main guard.

Ainge’s final move made the Eastern conference a nightmare. He traded Donavan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkenen, Ochai Agbaji and three future unprotected first-round draft picks and two pick swaps on Sept. 1.

With Mitchell, the Cavaliers have a deadly starting lineup that also includes the likes of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, Kevin Love and Jarrett Allen. This lineup has potential to challenge any team in the east.

In one offseason, Ainge got his revenge on the Eastern Conference and the Lakers while getting a substantial return via trades. The Jazz, in total, received Beasley, Vanderbilt, Bolmaro, Kessler, Horton-Tucker, Johnson, Sexton, Markkanen, Agbaji, eight first-round picks and two pick swaps.

Unbeknown to anyone, the Utah Jazz had won the offseason and Ainge got his revenge.