Everyone knows Danny Ainge drives a hard bargain, which is to say he's typically not interested in trading with you unless you're willing to give him the best player and/or assets in the deal and all the furniture in your house. He values value in as ruthless a way as any general manager in sports. Players are contracts. Plain and simple. And from the sounds of it, Ainge doesn't like Myles Turner the player nearly enough to take on the business of his contract.
Which, perhaps, is the reason Gordon Hayward is in Charlotte.
It is believed that had Boston acted quickly, a sign-and-trade with Indiana was on the table before Hayward ultimately signed with the Hornets for $120 million over four years. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe reported that Hayward was hellbent on returning home to Indiana to play for the Pacers, who offered Turner and Doug McDermott to the Celtics, who would then sign-and-trade Hayward back to Indiana.
Boston, again according to Washburn, countered by asking for either Victor Oladipo or T.J. Warren to pair with Turner instead of McDermott, which is classic Ainge greed. Oladipo might have low trade value right now, but Ainge was basically trying to get a guy who was, not that long ago, an All-NBA player, along with a very good big man in Turner, for a player in Hayward that he had already decided to divorce.
From the sounds of it, Ainge wanted the second player in the deal to be someone he deemed more valuable than McDermott because the first player in the deal, Turner, was not a player, or contract, that interested him. On a recent episode of The Lowe Post, ESPN's Zach Lowe had this to say:
"I think really, talking to people, and reading the tea leaves as best I could, I think it just comes down to the Celtics didn't want Myles Turner. I just don't think they really wanted Myles Turner.
" ... I did hear from some teams around the league that the Celtics have done some preliminary research on what Turner's trade value would've been to them had they acquired him either in this deal or in a separate deal, and obviously didn't like what they saw."
In other words, the Celtics didn't want Turner, and they found out nobody else wants him that badly, either, which on its face is strange given his idealized modern skillset as a rim-protecting, floor-stretching big; basically a much younger and in my opinion better, Brook Lopez.
Turner, who shot 39 percent from 3-point range two seasons ago, led the league in blocks per game in 2018-19 (2.7) and finished fifth this past season (2.1). Turner is a top-tier defender as measured by ESPN's defensive real plus-minus, which estimates that he saves just under three points per 100 possessions. For reference, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, saves just over three points per 100.
Turner would seemingly represent a near-perfect fit in Boston, which has widely been viewed as being a big man short of true contention; Daniel Theis, for all his underrated attributes, is only 6-foot 8. Turner is closer to seven feet. And again, he shoots it from deep and would slide right into the pick-and-pop role abandoned by Al Horford.
So why didn't the Celtics want him? Simple: he makes too much money for their blood -- $18 million each of the next three seasons. It's not an exorbitant number, but Boston just got Tristan Thompson for $18 million over two years. Thompson isn't on par with Turner in a vacuum, but he brings his own merits as an elite offensive rebounder and screener and a sufficiently switchable defender on the perimeter.
Given how much cheaper Thompson is, the Celtics decided they could do without Turner's shooting, which I believe is, or was, a mistake. Boston's endless flow of pick-and-rolls begs for a popping big like Turner who keeps the floor spaced and the lane open. And again, the interior defense is elite. Teams shot just 51 percent inside of six feet when being defended by Turner last season, per NBA.com, which is an elite mark and just three ticks off Rudy Gobert's 48-percent clip.
Thompson, meanwhile, gave up a bucket 56 percent of the time inside six feet each of the last two seasons, and he gave up a 66-percent clip in 2017-18. He's a big body and feels like more of a bruiser, but he's also two inches shorter than Turner and, again, can't shoot. The Celtics are, pretty simply, a worse team with Thompson than they would've been with Turner, and this is to say nothing of losing Hayward.
What's even more strange is the apparent lack of interest in Turner league-wide. It wasn't long ago that he was considered one of the top trade candidates; expendable for the Pacers given the presence of Domantas Sabonis and, again, a decidedly good fit in the modern NBA for just about any team. He's not perfect. He used to settle for too many long two-point shots, but he largely rectified that last season. He doesn't make a monster amount of money. I like him. I'm confused why a lot of teams apparently don't, at least not at his salary.
So we'll see how it works out. Turner remains a trade candidate, and I believe the Pacers will eventually find a taker. But from Boston's standpoint, an opportunity might've been a one-shot deal. The reportedly proposed sign-and-trade seemed to be a classic win-win deal. Boston got greedy, because that's what Ainge does, and only time will tell if it was a smart move for a team that never seems quite willing to make that one final move -- with all due respect to once trading for Kyrie Irving -- to push them over the top.