Ever since Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were traded to the Nets, Danny Ainge's only goal has been to accumulate as much young talent and as many draft picks as possible. Regardless of what contracts he had to take on or whether the newly acquired players fit with the roster, Ainge has solely been interested in acquiring assets that he could use moving forward.
After Wednesday night's win in Brooklyn, when discussing the effort and hustle necessary for his team to win, Avery Bradley said, "Those 50-50 balls, we have to be able to get all those because we're not a very talented team." Avery didn't have to put it so bluntly, but it is the harsh truth. At this point in the rebuilding process though, Ainge is trying to stockpile assets in any manner he can - and not necessarily build a complete team. It worked in 2008, and hopefully another superstar will become available and it will work again soon.
The fact Ainge is solely probing for assets was never more evident than in the Rondo trade. He acquired another first round pick, but also acquired three players, in Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, and Jameer Nelson.
Besides the future pick, Wright was portrayed as the headliner of the deal - and rightfully so. At the time of the trade, Wright was 5th in the entire league in PER and was a key cog in the NBA's best offense. Despite his gaudy numbers in Dallas, Wright has only played 10.8 minutes per game over the course of eight games with the Celtics, plus a DNP CD on Wednesday night.
On the surface, Wright, who will be a free agent this summer, seemed to be a great addition who the Celtics could be interested in bringing back next year. However, with three young and talented bigs plus an established veteran like Brandon Bass already on the roster, there haven't been many minutes available in the frontcourt.
Maybe the plan all along has been to flip Wright, but the Celtics cannot trade him in a package deal for two months after his acquisition in accordance to NBA rules (he can be shipped out on his own at any time). That muddles things up in the meantime, and puts Brad Stevens in a really tough spot. There are only 240 minutes to go around each game, and only 96 to be spread out among five capable bigs. Anything more than a 10-man rotation is too much and will be unproductive, so it will force difficult situations - like last night - where a talented, healthy player won't see the floor.
This is on Ainge. Obtaining assets is certainly important for a rebuilding team like the Celtics, but not when the players coming to town can disturb the rotation. You can never have enough picks, but there is a point where you can have too many young players. Right now, there are 15 guys on the Celtics roster who think they should be getting minutes, and that is a dangerous thing. There haven't been any major disruptions as of yet, but that doesn't mean there won't be in the future. Wright just came from playing 18 minutes a game on a title contender to sitting an entire game for a team that is 12-21. Regardless of how great an attitude he has, that would wear on anyone.
The Celtics owe it to themselves to see if Wright can put up numbers away from the juggernaut in Dallas so they can determine if he could be a guy they want to resign this offseason. It is impossible to make that evaluation with Wright getting DNP's. The obvious guy to sit would be Bass, who is also a free agent after this year. However, he is such a hard worker and solid role player that Stevens can't - or won't - leave him on the bench. If Wright was going to be the low man on the Celtics frontcourt totem pole, then there doesn't seem to be much sense in acquiring him as the centerpiece of a Rondo deal.
To fix this problem, a trade has to be made, and Brandon Bass should be the guy to go. The return might not be what Ainge was hoping for, but at this point it is addition by subtraction. Not because Bass is playing poorly or a bad locker room guy by any stretch, but because these four younger guys have to play. Even if the Celtics get a 2nd rounder back with top-50 protection, the deal would be worth it with the minutes it would create in the frontcourt. The Celtics can send Bass to a contender, which he deserves after giving his heart and soul for the Celtics for three and half years, no matter where they were in the standings. In this scenario, the Celtics would be doing right by Bass, and more importantly, they would cleaning up their crowded big man rotation.
The key to a rebuilding team is to "build" something. By playing Brandon Bass 20 minutes a game, a guy who is all but guaranteed not to be in Boston next year, the Celtics aren't building much of anything. Danny has to do whatever he can to send Bass to another team so that Boston can see what it has in Sullinger, Olynyk, Zeller, and Wright.
After the game Wednesday night, Stevens even said, "Brandan Wright has to play." He went on to say playing time will probably be decided on a night-to-night basis, and that Wright's DNP was simply a product of his preference to play four bigs instead of five.
Could he have been trying to send a message to his GM? Probably not, but without question Ainge is doing Stevens no favors with the way the Celtics roster is currently constructed.