He might not know it, but the “Brooklyn pick” is Danny Ainge’s own worst enemy.
Everyone wants it. And the Celtics’ president of basketball operations seemingly won’t give it up.
That’s why the Celtics made no moves before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
We all saw the names in the rumor mill. I’ll give you a few who I wanted Ainge to trade for: Jimmy Butler or Paul George. Turns out, the biggest deal went down last weekend, when the Sacramento Kings sent DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, a 2017 first-round pick, and a 2017 second-round pick.
At first, I figured that move would be a good thing for the Celtics. Turns out, it worked against Ainge at the trade deadline. That is, if you believe there was actually a trade to be made before Thursday at 3 p.m.
And there had to have been. Which brings me back to my theory: the Brooklyn pick — in 2017 — is Ainge’s own worst enemy.
It’s projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. So don’t tell me it has no trade value. That pick alone has more value than anything New Orleans gave up to get Cousins, who is one of the NBA’s most dominant young players.
Ainge probably saw that trade and thought, there’s no way anyone can ask for the Brooklyn Pick now. In a way, even I figured — originally — that the Cousins trade had set the market. If you were going to trade an All-Star caliber player in his mid-to-late 20’s, you couldn’t possibly ask for a King’s Ransom anymore.
On top of that, there isn’t a general manager in the league who would be doing his job if he didn’t try to get the Brooklyn Pick from the Celtics in a deadline deal. And every GM knows what the Celtics need. Those who have that All-Star player to give up, they’re going to ask for the Brooklyn Pick, even if that player isn’t worthy of it in a trade.
As long as Ainge has the Brooklyn Pick, and as long as everyone knows the Celtics are looking to make a trade to improve their team, it’s going to be the starting point for other GMs in a negotiation. I assume that has lead to many brutal trade offers coming from other clubs in recent days. To the point where Ainge must get pissed off. It’s human nature.
And if you keep getting low-balled — especially right after the Cousins trade — there comes a time where Ainge’s pride must take over. After all, he’s the one who acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to win a championship and then turn that championship era into the “Brooklyn Picks.” He’s the one who also acquired Isaiah Thomas, and created a team that’s currently the No. 2-seed in the Eastern Conference, all while possibly picking No. 1 overall in the draft the very same year.
It’s safe to say that Ainge is pretty damn good at what he does. It’s also safe to say that he knows it.
He doesn’t want to get fleeced. Which is why maybe, just maybe, he’s putting a little too much value on the Brooklyn Pick when it comes to realistic trade talks with teams like Chicago and Indiana.
We’re never really going to know why someone like Butler or George aren’t wearing Green Friday night in Toronto. But I have a hunch: Ainge just doesn’t want to part ways with the Brooklyn Pick.
And if so, it’s turning out to be his own worst enemy.