Brad Stevens Credits Danny Ainge For Celtics’ Title: ‘He Set Us Up’

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Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens was the mastermind behind Boston’s title-winning roster reconstruction effort last offseason, but the NBA’s Executive of the Year won’t take all of the credit.

It was 11 years ago when Stevens joined the Celtics, left Butler’s program, and became Boston’s newest head coach. Danny Ainge, currently of the Jazz, stood atop the front office and made one of the organization’s most difficult, but best decisions by trading beloved greats Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett — both of which fetched the Celtics a haul of draft picks, two of which became Jaylen Brown (in 2016) and Jayson Tatum (in 2017).

“First of all, we wouldn’t be able to do it if Danny didn’t keep everything stocked,” Stevens told Ryen Rusillo of The Ringer. “If Danny doesn’t do the trade and get Jaylen and Jayson we’re not in the position we’re in. He set us up in every which way and I don’t look at it as bold at all.”

To completely dismiss Ainge’s contributions and imprint on Banner 18 would be extremely disingenuous.

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In the summer of 2016, the talk of the draft was Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram — who both went ahead of Brown (No. 3). Fast forward to the following summer and Ainge was right back at it, trading Boston’s No. 1 overall pick down for No. 3 to land Tatum after Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball — who’ve combined for zero All-Star appearances — proving everyone wrong.

Those were risky decisions, especially considering the picks used to acquire Brown and Tatum held enough value to be dangled around in the trade market then. As Ainge works to replicate his behind-the-scenes work in Utah, his influence on Stevens has become abundantly clear.

Last offseason, to address an inexcusable Eastern Conference finals exit to a less talented Heat team, Stevens had enough. Marcus Smart, Robert Williams III and Malcolm Brogdon were the most notable of Boston departures, packaged to land Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. Quickly, the narratives labeling the two blockbusters as “risks” became the only two examples needed to prove Stevens as the best executive in the league this past year.

Looking in from afar, even Ainge commended the work done by Stevens, months before the confetti dropped and Banner 18 was officially secured.

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“He’s done an amazing job,” Ainge said of Stevens in December, per NBC Sports Boston. “They have good coaching, great management, great ownership, great players. Celtics top to bottom are sitting pretty in this league right now. They have shooting — maybe the best shooting in the NBA.”

Ainge, who lasted 18 years in Boston’s front office and was the architect behind its 2008 championship, understood the job isn’t finished after raising one banner. It’s now up to Stevens to enact that mission again next season.

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