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The effort of Brad Stevens deserves its praise

Brad Stevens has been active in his first offseason in the front office and that deserves a certain level of applause.

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game Two Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

You’d think a first-time president hired just before the start of his first offseason would need some time to get acclimated, maybe dipping a toe into the pool before taking bigger and more courageous steps. Evidently, Brad Stevens isn’t like other first-time front-office members.

He didn’t hesitate to ship out Kemba Walker when it was clear it was best for both sides to part ways, bringing back Al Horford’s much-needed two-way versatility in the process.

Stevens used the remainder of the Gordon Hayward trade exception before it expired to pick up and then extend Josh Richardson, who projects to be a rotation regular with the kind of contract that can seamlessly be included in the type of blockbuster trade the Celtics are rumored to be stocking up for should a star become available on the trade market.

Evan Fournier was already heading to the Knicks, but Stevens turned his departure into a valuable trade exception that could be used for additional improvements at a later date.

Stevens also saw the chance to capitalize on Dennis Schroder’s soured market with a deal that could prove beneficial on the kind of margins Boston has struggled to nail in recent years.

And instead of letting Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III play amid the pressure of expiring contracts, Stevens provided the job security that will keep the two focused on the team goals over individual ones.

For a squad trying to assert itself as a legitimate title contender, the results will ultimately dictate the verdict of many of these moves. But in the wake of this flurry of summer activity and before those impressions can be made for better or worse, I think it’s important to appreciate the motivating force behind the roster turnover and what it says about the future of the Boston Celtics.

One of the biggest gripes against Danny Ainge during his final years as team president was the absence of trades to elevate whatever hopes Boston had in any given season. Perhaps such deals weren’t as available as the public would like to believe, but it always felt like Ainge was a bit too comfortable riding the status quo when he had a handful of extra draft picks at his disposal.

Not every trade or free-agent signing is a winner, but even in a results-driven business of NBA contention, there’s something to be said for trying to fix whatever shortcomings exist to better one’s title odds. When there’s a missing piece to what is nowadays always a smaller championship window than you think with stars more than willing to flex their power and bolt for greener pastures, transactional activity is the risk you have to take.

If Ainge understood that, a case could be made he didn’t show it the way Stevens is in his first summer in the front office.

Even a move as seemingly insignificant as the recent one that brought in Juancho Hernangomez in exchange for Kris Dunn, Carsen Edwards, and a 2026 second-round pick says a lot about what Stevens’ mindset is shaping up to look like.

No stone gets left unturned in the name of improvement because the Celtics don’t have that luxury. They’re not championship favorites. They’re not even among the handful of teams expected to compete for a spot in The Finals.

If that means consolidating two point guards who weren’t expected to earn many minutes along with a future second-rounder for someone who could maybe provide some always-useful 3-point shooting from either forward spot, so be it. Whatever it takes.

That’s the kind of mentality Boston needs right now from the man in charge of building the roster, someone with a relentless drive to search high and low for even the slimmest of ways to improve.

Stevens has shown as much during his short time in the role. Given the at times frustrating inactivity of the previous regime, that has to be worth something independent of what it helps bring the Celtics in 2022 and beyond.