Cavs in Celtics state of mind?
Aug 2, 2012 at 9:25p ET
Ainge was (and still is) the president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, and Garnett and Allen were All-Stars in the prime of their careers.
But a lot of people forget, before that summer, the Celtics were downright bad. They finished just 33-49 in 2005-06, followed by 24-58 the next season.
Of course, Ainge's acquisition of Garnett and Allen worked out wonderfully, as the Celtics went from 24 wins to a championship in one season.
Not many general managers have attempted to replicate Ainge's blueprint -- but it appears to be a patient path down which Cavs GM Chris Grant is traveling.
Like Ainge did prior to the summer of '07, Grant is stockpiling assets and draft picks, the idea being to make a splash. Probably not this summer or upcoming season, but eventually.
And like Ainge once did, Grant seems willing to let his current roster grow without being too good before the time is right.
Recent reports say the Cavs are $16.4 million under the salary cap. That's far more wiggle room than anyone in the league. (Phoenix is reportedly second at $7.4 million under the cap.) Odds seem to be in favor of the Cavs staying close to that number for the time being.
Then, like Ainge and the Celtics once did, use the salary relief to strike it rich, mostly via trades (as opposed to free agency). In the meantime, Grant and the Cavs appear content to play the lottery and try to hit home runs in the draft.
To give you a better idea of what the Cavs may be thinking, let's take a closer look at Ainge's model with the Celtics:
• In 2006-07, the Celtics already had a star player in place in Paul Pierce. Everyone else was pretty much viewed as a spare part -- although the team did have several nice young players and veteran assets. Among the young players were Rajon Rondo, Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair, Kendrick Perkins, Ryan Gomes and Al Jefferson. Among the veterans: Theo Ratliff and Wally Szczerbiak.
• On top of those valuable commodities, the Celtics owned the No. 5 overall pick in the 2007 draft.
• At the time, both Garnett (then with Minnesota) and Allen (with Seattle) were said to be on the trading block. So Ainge went to work.
• First, he traded the fifth pick, West and Szczerbiak to Seattle (now Oklahoma City) for Allen and the 35th pick (used to select Glen Davis) on draft day.
• Then, a month later, Ainge landed Garnett. The price: Telfair, Ratliff, Green, Gomes, Jefferson, two first-rounders, and cash. Faster than you could utter the name of Red Auerbach, the Celtics were championship contenders.
• Garnett, Allen, Pierce and Perkins became the centerpieces of the Celtics' roster, and all Ainge had to do was fill in around them. He did so admirably, picking up role players in free agency. That same summer, Ainge signed James Posey and Eddie House, and the Celtics were on their way.
Again, Grant and the Cavs have a similar arrangement in place. They already have a star in reigning rookie of the year Kyrie Irving. They possess some nice young pieces in second-year forward Tristan Thompson and first-round picks Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller. They've held on to capable veterans in Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson.
The Cavs have also stashed away draft picks -- with two first-rounders (and two second-rounders) next summer, and two seconds in 2014. There could be another first-rounder in there somewhere, provided Sacramento meets the criteria determined in the J.J. Hickson-Omri Casspi trade of 2011.
So if you're concerned with the Cavs' lack of moves this offseason, their determination to cling to their cap space, their constant acquisition of picks (as opposed to actual players) … well, don't be.
Instead, just try to keep Ainge and the Celtics' summer of '07 in mind. It seems to be a road today's Cavs are taking.
Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO