Celtics fans are well aware of former GM Danny Ainge’s infatuation with forward Jimmy Butler. Ainge was one of Butler’s biggest fans in the 2011 draft and has regretted letting the Marquette product get away.
In a recent interview on The Players’ Tribune’s “Knuckleheads” podcast, however, Ainge revealed that he nearly pulled off a trade for Butler when the latter was in Chicago. And the cost of that deal would’ve been massive.
Ainge remarked that “some of the best trades I ever made were the ones I wasn’t able to make.” He then brought up the Butler example, saying he was in talks for the all-around talent, but the Bulls would’ve wanted the two draft picks that became Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in any package.
"“I was trying to get Jimmy Butler from Chicago when I was in Boston, but they wanted a lot. And so we didn’t do it. It ended would’ve been Jaylen and Jayson, both those draft picks.”"
It’s no shock Chicago wanted a ton for Butler, who ended his Bulls stint with three straight All-Star nods. What is surprising is Ainge had enough restraint to back away. Any one of us would have a hard time passing down a trade for a player we love, especially when it’s only a “yes” away.
Chicago instead got a haul from the Timberwolves on NBA Draft Day 2017 in exchange for Butler, landing Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn (a 2016 top-five pick) and the No. 7 selection. Butler didn’t last even two seasons with the Wolves, however, as he was sent to the 76ers. He landed in Miami after 55 games in Philly and has enjoyed two Finals runs in four seasons with the Heat.
Ainge’s revelation opens up a whole can of worms about how different the last few years could’ve been for the Celtics. Boston’s obviously happy to have eventually drafted Tatum and Brown, who form the pillars of this current championship contender.
Neither has been able to deliver this franchise its next title, though, which has prompted speculation about this pairing’s long-term future. Butler, meanwhile, is the kind of special player who’s proved he can will his team to the game’s biggest stage. Just think about what he could’ve done with another dog beside him in Marcus Smart.
The performances of Butler, Brown and Tatum since those trade talks highlights the importance of roster building, however. Each star is an All-NBA selection, yet they remain ringless. Rearranging the deck chairs by no means guarantees any player would have won a championship at this point.
And while Butler’s found stability in Miami, there’s no telling if he would still be around in Boston. Though the T-Wolves weren’t ready to seriously compete, the Sixers sure were, and he left them for Miami. Who’s to say Butler ultimately would’ve been happy with the Celtics?
Rolling with the picks that became Brown and Tatum looks like the right call. Boston’s been on the doorstep of a title before, and the presence of this duo puts the Celtics in the hunt every year. After the team’s roster shakeup this offseason, the Brown-Tatum pairing is in its best position yet to earn a ring. Now we wait and see if they can actually pull it off.
Want to bet on the Celtics this season? Caesars Sportsbook is the place to do it. If you wager anything between $10 and $1,250 on the Celts with your first bet, Caesars will give you a bonus equal to the amount you wagered should that bet lose. So if you put $50 on Boston to win, you automatically get awarded a $50 bonus if they lose. This offer won’t be around for long, so cash in now before it’s too late!