The Boston Celtics making their triumphant return to the NBA Finals this year could not have been accomplished if not for one key trade.
Mind you, this is a group that had made it to the Eastern Conference Finals before – only to fall short.
Not this season.
Recently, former team president Danny Ainge revealed the key move made by his successor Brad Stevens that he believes paved the way for the Celtics’ return to the NBA Finals.
“I think that, by moving Kemba [Walker],” Ainge told NBA insider Steve Bulpett. “It allowed Marcus (Smart), Jaylen (Brown) and Jayson (Tatum) and Robert Williams to really thrive in positional size, with Horford taking up a big responsibility in the front line for Robert and moving Jaylen, Jayson and Marcus to their positions where they can have size advantages.
“It’s just a better fit. I think that is really clear.”
Boston has gotten this far thanks to an incredible defensive tenacity – and the current roster really maximizes that.
“I think it makes your defense so much better,” said Ainge. “You don’t really have any weak holes in your defense at all. There’s a lot of small players that we had, with Kemba and Isaiah Thomas, and Kyrie (Irving) had pretty good size for a point guard, but he was smaller. Sometimes there’s some defensive liability with those great small players.
“You don’t have the same dynamic offensive point guard in Marcus, but he brings such a different element with his ability to pass and his ability to post up and rebound. But more than anything, the versatility that he has to be able to guard 1 through 5, I mean, that’s really increased the defensive ability of their team.”
It’s hard to argue with the results. And when you consider how poorly Walker has done for the New York Knicks, it makes the decision to dump him all the more sensible.
Obviously Boston made more than one smart trade to get to this point. A lot of dead weight was cut. But it’s easy to see why the Walker one stands out in Ainge’s mind.
Jordan Poole is on quite the hot streak. https://t.co/1BqrDG8J7W
— Game 7 (@game7__) May 31, 2022
It will be interesting to see if the Celtics will be able to ultimately defeat a Golden State Warriors squad that most perceive to be the favorites coming into the Finals.
If they do, then the Walker trade will really look brilliant in hindsight.