Danny Ainge ruffled a lot of feathers during his playing days, which began with the Boston Celtics in 1981, so it’s no surprise the Utah Jazz executive now appreciates players who are willing to mix it up on the hardwood.

“I like guys that fight,” Ainge recently said on Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” podcast. “I mean, not literal fight, but guys that will fight for what they can and take it as far as they can. I like instigators.”

This much was apparent during Ainge’s time as Celtics president of basketball operations.

Sure, talent is important. And the Celtics pursued the best players available throughout Ainge’s tenure, which ended in 2021. But Ainge clearly has a soft spot for those who push the envelope — just like he once did.

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“I think some of my favorite draft picks were Avery Bradley, Tony Allen, Delonte West,” Ainge said. “They were big-time instigators.”

The Celtics drafted West and Allen back-to-back in 2004, at No. 24 and No. 25 overall, respectively. They selected Bradley in 2010, at No. 19 overall.

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Of course, Ainge was responsible for drafting many key contributors, including Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. And elite players like that ultimately move the needle and elevate championship-caliber rosters.

But don’t undersell the scrappy underdogs. They, too, are vital in establishing a successful DNA, even if their impact often is more difficult to quantify.

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Featured image via Rob Gray/USA TODAY Sports Images