BOSTON (AP) — During his tenure as Celtics president, Danny Ainge has developed a reputation as deal maker that pounces on opportunities.
He will forever be tethered to the coup he pulled off in the summer of 2007 to assemble the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen just three years into the tenure of then-coach Doc Rivers.
No one is expecting Ainge to recreate that moment this summer, but with a myriad of draft picks and salary cap space at his disposal, he isn’t shying away from the expectation that this offseason could be one of the most important in recent memory.
“We look forward to every offseason. This offseason is bigger,” Ainge said. “My expectations are high this offseason and yet I also know that it takes good fortune.”
Helping those fortunes along will be Boston’s eight draft picks this summer, including three in the first round. The eight picks are Boston’s most since 1987 when the draft had seven rounds.
It not only will provide the Celtics with bargaining chips for potential trades, but the ability to “draft and stash” young players If they want, Ainge said.
A lot will depend on what happens May 17 at the draft lottery. Boston owns the unprotected first-round pick of the Nets, which it picked up in the deal that sent Garnett and Pierce to Brooklyn in 2013.
The Nets finished with the third-worst record in the NBA, so they will hand the Celtics about a 16 percent chance of securing the No. 1 pick with it.
“We need the ping pong balls to bounce our way to give us the best opportunity, whether we use that pick or whether we trade that pick,” Ainge said. “And in free agency we have opportunities. That’s all we have. We have no guarantees of great things happening. We just have a lot of hope.”
Depending on where they land, Ainge could package some of their later picks to move up or trade for future picks.
It’s all in play, and it’s why he is anticipating a much busier lead up to draft night June – both in the number of players they bring in to evaluate and the conversations they have with teams around the league.
What happens in June will then directly affect what trades and free agents the team pursues.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had cap space. So this is a unique opportunity,” Ainge said. “We have to be patient, too. There’s a lot of money around the league. A lot of teams have cap space with the new TV contracts kicking in.”
Ainge said even with the rash of injuries late in the season and into the playoffs, his team is mostly healthy.
Avery Bradley wasn’t able to return after his right hamstring injury on the opening night of the playoffs, but Ainge said it was a grade-1 strain and that team simply was being careful not to aggravate it.
The only player that could have surgery is Kelly Olynyk, who played with pain throughout the postseason after aggravating an injury to his right shoulder. Olynyk is expected to make a decision in about a week on how he will proceed.
It’s been a lot to process, but Ainge said he plans to stay as level-headed as possible.
“It doesn’t really do any good to put a noose around our neck and say that there’s all this urgency,” he said. “We have plenty of urgency. Brad wants to win, Isaiah wants to win, Avery wants to win. We all want to win. … But we also have to be patient in doing good deals and not doing bad deals.”
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower