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Danny Ainge did it again. The former Boston Celtics president of basketball operations and current Utah Jazz CEO pulled off another trade masterpiece Thursday.

Ainge sent three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a boatload that will help reshape Utah’s future. It’s a similar deal that Celtics fans — and certainly Brooklyn Nets fans — know all too well.

Danny Ainge’s blockbuster deal triggers Boston Celtics memories

Former Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge watches during an open practice at TD Garden in Boston on Oct. 5, 2019.
| John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

Ainge is the master when it comes to hoarding draft picks. He compiled tons with the Celtics, many used to build the current team that reached the NBA Finals last year.

In 2013, Ainge sent Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry to the Nets. Boston received five players — Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Gerad Wallace, Keith Bogans, and Kris Joseph. The biggest part of the deal for Boston was the three first-round picks they received.

Ainge collected Brooklyn’s top picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018. The Celtics also had the right to swap picks in 2015 and 2017. It’s the pick swap in 2017 that may have been the biggest component in the deal.

The Nets won 20 games during the 2016-17 season, finishing with the NBA’s worst record. Boston swapped picks and earned the top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Ainge then swung another deal, trading the top pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for the third pick and a future first-rounder. With that third pick, the Celtics selected Jayson Tatum.

On Thursday, Ainge traded Mitchell to the Cavs for a similar package. 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.

Just like he did with the Celtics, Ainge has the Jazz set up nicely for the future


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The three picks Ainge collected Thursday can be added to the five he received two months ago when he traded center Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The biggest difference between Ainge’s Celtics trade and Thursday’s Jazz one is that Mitchell is 26 and still in his prime. Garnett was 37 and Pierce 35 when they were dealt.

While Mitchell is one of the game’s premier scorers, Ainge also received some talent that will help the present Jazz. Sexton missed most of last season with a knee injury but has averaged 20 points in his four years with the Cavs.

Markkanen has put up 15.4 points in his five-year NBA career. He was the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. The seven-footer played his first four seasons with the Chicago Bulls.

Agbaji was Cleveland’s first-round pick in 2022, selected 14th overall.

Mitchell will certainly make the Cavs an immediate contender in the Eastern Conference, but Ainge has the Jazz set up nicely, just like he did with the Celtics.

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