The Boston Celtics may have passed up multiple opportunities to build the best team in the Eastern Conference. For the last 4 years, the Celtics had an assortment of young talent and valuable first-round picks to their disposal. This means they could have landed at least 2 or more superstar players.
But they missed that chance, due to GM Danny Ainge's frugality. Ainge is famous for pulling off the biggest heist in NBA history by trading an aging Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry for multiple first-round picks in 2013. If another heist is not available, Ainge won't make a deal and that may have come back to haunt them. Here are the 5 superstar players the Boston Celtics didn't land even though they had the means to.
5. Paul George
Paul George's time was up in Indiana in 2017. The Celtics were massive players in the George market and had a slew of young talent including Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart along with a boatload of valuable first-round picks. But as reported, Boston did not even submit a real offer for Paul George, before the All-Star forward was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a package centered around Victor Oladipo.
The Celtics reportedly did not include Tatum, Brown, the next year's Nets pick, or the valuable Lakers-Kings pick they got from Philly. In a nutshell, the Celtics did not offer the shiny assets to convince Indiana to make a deal. While keeping Tatum out of the offers made sense, including Jaylen Brown and at least one of the valuable picks would have paired George with Tatum and Irving for a chance to make a run for the title. But as the next four candidates show, Boston never made a blockbuster deal that they should have made.
4. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler was one of the hottest commodities in 2017 after a very successful stint with the Chicago Bulls. Butler improved from a defensive role player into an All-Star who any team can build around. Butler played hard, worked even harder, and was destined for greatness. But the Celtics passed up on Butler because they were worried about how he would fit with Gordon Hayward.
The Celtics signed Gordon Hayward to a max deal in the summer of 2017 and felt that taking a risk on Butler wouldn't work personality-wise. And what a mistake that was. Instead, Butler was traded to Minnesota for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and a first-round pick (which became Lauri Markkanen). Fast forward to the summer of 2019, and once again, the Celtics couldn't convince Jimmy Butler to join them over the Miami Heat. Ouch.
3. Kawhi Leonard
The Boston Celtics really dropped the ball with Kawhi Leonard. They had assets to trade for Leonard after Kawhi wanted to leave the Spurs and made his intentions clear to contending teams. The Celtics had a strong package of Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and first-round picks. But they couldn't make it work with San Antonio. As good as DeMar DeRozan is, and he was an All-Star, he was not a better return for a superstar like Kawhi than Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart were.
Boston Celtics fans are disturbed by the fact that a player of Kawhi's caliber could not join another superstar like Kyrie Irving in Boston. But the Celtics felt that having two superstars who could leave for free in the offseason wasn't worth the risk, and yet again, they missed out on a chance to sign a great player. Of course, Kawhi ended up winning the NBA title with the Toronto Raptors on a one-year rental and it would be certain he would have done the same with Kyrie Irving in Boston.
2. Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis made his intentions to sit out of games with the New Orleans Pelicans known to the world. Davis was done playing in New Orleans, and Pelicans fans wanted him gone immediately. A player like Anthony Davis comes along once every generation, because of his supreme talent and ability as a forward. Of course, Boston was right in the mix to acquire the best big man in the game.
But they didn't pull the trigger, over fears of Davis being a one-year rental. Davis made it clear he wanted to be in Los Angeles, and the Celtics did not want to mortgage their future for one year of Davis. The Celtics refused to include Jayson Tatum in a deal, but later on, were willing to do so. Either way, Boston missed out on a chance to pair Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving for a run at a title. As Davis showed with the Lakers, he was ready to win a chip, and Boston once again missed out on a chance to win an NBA title despite having the talent to do so.
1. James Harden
James Harden forced his way out of Houston this season, following 2 blowout losses to the Los Angeles Lakers. Harden stated how the team wasn't good enough, and that the situation couldn't be fixed with the Rockets. Clearly a shot at the entire organization, the Rockets pulled the trigger and moved him a day later to the Brooklyn Nets. Of course, many teams were interested in the 3-time scoring champion.
Multiple teams were interested in James Harden, and the Boston Celtics were one of them. But as reported, the Celtics simply didn't want to make the move for Harden over doubts of his professionalism and attitude. Instead of pairing assets such as Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and multiple first-round picks to acquire a top-5 player in James Harden; they ended up passing yet another opportunity to be the kings of the East.
James Harden has made Brooklyn the favorites in the East, and instead, Boston could have been the favorites with a pairing of James Harden and Jayson Tatum. With Harden in Brooklyn, Boston's chances of ever reaching a Finals is getting slimmer and slimmer.