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This wasn’t anything personal toward the Boston Celtics. It’s simply a case of Danny being Danny. Danny Ainge, the former president of basketball operations with the Celtics, made a splash Thursday in his similar role with the Utah Jazz. Ainge sent three-time NBA All-Star Donovan Mitchell across the country to the Cleveland Cavaliers for three players and a bevy of first-round picks.

The deal makes a potential return to the NBA Finals a bit tougher for his former team.

Danny Ainge picks up where he left off with the Boston Celtics

Utah Jazz CEO Danny Ainge looks on before a game against the LA Clippers at Vivint Smart Home Arena on December 15, 2021, in Salt Lake City, Utah. | Alex Goodlett/Getty Images.

They don’t call him Trader Danny for nothing.

During his time with the Celtics, Ainge pulled off some serious deals. He made a couple of moves before the 2007-08 season to bring in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Those deals immediately resulted in Boston’s first championship since 1986.

Years later, he traded Garnett, along with Paul Pierce, to the Brooklyn Nets in a package deal that resulted in the Celtics collecting three future first-round picks. Those picks were later used to secure Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the team’s current cornerstones.

Ainge was back at it Thursday.

Ainge already dealt center Rudy Gobert, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, to the Minnesota Timberwolves, getting five first-round draft picks in return. The move signified a Utah rebuild, and Ainge confirmed that with Thursday’s deal of Mitchell.

For Mitchell, the Jazz received unprotected first-round picks in 2025, 2027, and 2029 as well as pick swaps in 2026 and 2028, per ESPN. They also got Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, and Collin Sexton.

Ainge’s move makes Boston’s road a little more challenging


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When Ainge resigned from the Celtics after the 2020-21 season, he left the team in great shape. He drafted Brown, Tatum, and Robert Williams in consecutive years, and all three are major components of a team that just reached the NBA Finals.

The Celtics were the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference despite a rough start to the season. They endured the toughest playoff run of any NBA team, facing the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, and the Golden State Warriors.

If the Celtics want to get back to the championship round this year, Ainge just made the road even tougher. The addition of Mitchell puts the Cavs in contender mode. It’s another roadblock for Boston.

Mitchell will still only be 26 when the 2022-23 season begins. He’ll join a young Cleveland core that consists of Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen that brought the Cavs to the play-in game last year. It was their first postseason game since 2018.

The Cavs are clearly in win-now mode after mortgaging much of their future. Mitchell makes them another Eastern Conference threat the Celtics will have to deal with.

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