One of the best trade methods in any sport, including the NBA, is to find the worst general managers and try to take advantage of them.
Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge did just that in 2013 when he pulled off one of the best — or worst, depending on which team you support — trades in league history with the Brooklyn Nets.
How did Ainge use former Nets general manager Billy King’s personality against him? Stefan Bondy explains in a lengthy feature on the historic trade for the New York Daily News.
“Billy’s literally like an addicted gambler when he’s close to doing those trades,” an opposing executive said, per Bondy. “He’ll do anything when it reaches a certain point.
“It’s the same way people think of (Kings owner) Vivek (Ranadive) and (Kings GM) Vlade (Divac), like ‘Damn, they’re running out of assets. We can’t strip them anymore.’ Everyone knew this was Billy’s weakness. …He created this situation where his only way out was to chase stars and hit a grand slam by swinging for the fences. He thought he got step 1 with Deron (Williams). And he was like, ‘I’m so close to getting step 2, I’m going to keep chasing these stars and I have owners that will pay.’ It created this disaster.”
The Nets, who moved to Brooklyn in 2013, wanted to win after moving into the brand new Barclays Center and mortgaged their future for a short-term go at a title. It backfired significantly, to say the least, and now the franchise is in ruins, partly because of Ainge’s persistence in extracting the best assets from the Nets.
The price to take on bad contracts and two aging stars in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett was highlighted by a 2014 first-round pick (No. 17 overall), a 2016 first-round pick (No. 3 overall), a 2017 first-round pick swap (No. 1 overall) and a 2018 first-round pick (likely top 10 overall).
Every pick was unprotected, which is insane when you think about it, but it appears King’s eagerness to meet ownership’s demands for star players and winning, along with his own weaknesses in making trades, pushed him too far.
Credit the Celtics and Ainge for realizing this situation and acting appropriately.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images