How much credit does Jazz exec Danny Ainge deserve for the Celtics' success?

The Celtics etched their names in NBA history on June 17, but how much credit do they owe their latest banner to their former GM?
Los Angeles Clippers v Utah Jazz
Los Angeles Clippers v Utah Jazz / Chris Gardner/GettyImages

It's been over three years now since Utah Jazz executive Danny Ainge last had any association with the Boston Celtics. Yet, it's hard not to see what the Celtics have done and not think how Ainge's fingerprints are all over their latest championship.

Ainge had already built a reputation for being one of the league's best GMs years before the Celtics won their 18th banner. However, when they started from scratch, it's pretty easy to see how masterful of a job Ainge did at quickly rebuilding their core.

First things first, he was the one who discovered Brad Stevens and brought him into the NBA. It took little time at all for Stevens to prove the genius basketball mind. That genius carried over to the front office when the Celtics promoted him as Ainge's replacement. That would not have happened had Ainge not hired him out of Butler.

Then, he orchestrated one of the NBA's most lopsided trades ever when he traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry for what would later turn out to be Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. One can only wonder where the Celtics would be if they had let Garnett and Pierce finish their careers there instead of cashing in on their value, especially knowing what they got back.

Ainge brought in a basketball savant, cashed in on declining assets, hit multiple bullseyes in the draft, and even lured a couple of All-Stars in their prime to come join Boston (one of which Jazz fans are more than familiar with). Even when the Celtics were winning, they had never done that before Al Horford signed with them in 2016.

Were there some missteps along the way? Of course, there were, but no path to a title is ever perfect. Every winner had speed bumps. The fact remains that before he stepped down with the Celtics, Ainge hit consecutive home runs that proved vital to how the Celtics regained their relevance as quickly as they did and why they are currently the reigning NBA champions.

Hearkening back to his missteps, Ainge isn't entirely responsible for how the Celtics reached the top. The Kyrie Irving trade turned into a disaster in Boston, and following that up with signing Kemba Walker to a max contract proved to be more of the same, but for different reasons. Ex-Jazzman Gordon Hayward hardly left much of an impact during his time with Boston before bolting for Charlotte.

In fact, when Ainge left, Boston had a lot of questions about where they were going. The Celtics were a mess when Stevens inherited them as President of Basketball Operations. TLDR: he cleaned it up.

Getting Horford back while getting rid of Walker steadily stabilized the ship. Adding Derrick White, Kristaps Porzingis, and Jrue Holiday - the latter two the Jazz wanted - along the way gave them the reinforcements the Celtics desperately needed. However, all of that started with Ainge's masterful work in Boston's front office.

In essence, Stevens finished what Ainge undoubtedly started in Boston. This isn't all brought up just to say that Ainge's efforts should not be forgotten. It's to say that because of what the Celtics have accomplished, the Jazz should feel optimistic about their future no matter what.

Danny Ainge's resume should ilicit optimism for Utah's future

Much has been said about Utah's lack of a discernible direction at the moment. That is all fair because fans want to see results, and while it's been fun at times, the Jazz have stagnated because they don't really know where they'll go next.

No matter what route they take, the Celtics winning their 18th banner should help jazz fans sleep at night knowing that much of their success has been because of Ainge. Utah has a ways to go before they become a contender again, but having Ainge at their disposal gives them a legitimate front office maestro.

It may not necessarily be right away, but Danny Ainge has shown that he knows what he's doing. A lot of what backfired in Boston before he left can be attributed to bad luck more than poor front office management. The Jazz have already set themselves up pretty well for their future, even if that may not pay off for some time.

Believing in the Jazz's future will require patience, but Ainge has proven multiple times now that he can reward a fanbase for their faith. There's no reason to think that he can't do it again.