Thus, to the casual observer, the Celtics have spent the last few years “going for it,” or at least remaining relevant enough in the Eastern Conference. No one would accuse them of tanking over the last three seasons. They’ve signed good players, put together a deep roster, invested in a young coach, Brad Stevens, who’s quickly proving himself one of the most adept in the league.
But all the while, they were engaging in Ainge’s process. They weren’t giving up assets, ever, and more often than not were acquiring them. They’d go and get players who could help them win, but never at the expense of the future. (The perfect example is the Isaiah Thomas trade. Ainge used Marcus Thornton and the Cavaliers’ first-round pick they’d acquired to get the deal done, but you know they were never giving up their pick, or the Nets’, for Thomas.)
But Ainge had the assets and the Nets’ cover to go and get better. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Hinkie and the 76ers brass were signing guys on short-stint contracts and doing their best to bottom out, not gifted the Nets’ picks and general incompetence.
The Celtics engaged in all sorts of Hinkie-esque maneuvers as well – stashing guys in Europe, taking D-League projects in the Draft, you name it.
Winslow Townson USA TODAY Sports