I believe Ainge has a plan and it is a great plan. Sports fans/commentators are so fickle sometimes. Early this year and for the past 4 years people have praised Ainge's rebuild and said the Celtics are doing something that is extremely rare, i.e. rebuilding while also fielding a competitive team. Now we lose our first 2 playoff games and all of that is thrown out the window? Seriously? We still have great draft picks in this years draft and next years draft along with a young core, that hasn't changed. Cowherd has been ripping Ainge for not making trades at the deadline, specifically Butler or Paul George, but if you have to gut the core of your team to make a deal for Butler, then you become no different than the Bulls. If the Bulls would take some draft picks and young players and you could add Butler or George while keeping most of our core, then Ainge probably does it. If the Bulls are asking for our 2 Brooklyn 1sts along with Crowder, Bradley and Smart then we lose a lot of our core and a lot of our future core for 1 player. If you say the Bulls should make this trade, then they would end up with Crowder, Bradley, Smart, and the 2 Brooklyn 1sts. If they should make this trade, then we shouldn't because we already have all of them. Anyway, I believe Ainge has a plan and he would make a trade for a superstar if we could still keep the bulk of our core in tact. Otherwise he is committed to building through the draft. By the way we have a couple of examples of teams that were primarily built through the draft, i.e. Golden State. They drafted Curry, Thompson, Draymond, Harrison Barnes; they signed a free agent that was a core player in Igudola, but before they even signed Durant much of their core was built through the draft and it took some time. The Thunder built their team primarily through the draft up until they lost Durant to free agency. Ultimately I believe we are still in a great position and am excited to see what the future holds!
Yeah, I thought about GS as I was writing the OP, but I concluded that they got pretty lucky—Steph was a No. 7 pick and Thompson a No. 11, and I doubt anyone foresaw them being this good. I'm not even sure GS thought they would be as good as they are. And Green was a second-rounder.
The Thunder are an example often brought up, but as I said in my OP, look at all the great talent OKC drafted and it got them only one Finals trip and zero titles.
I don't buy the premise of this thread at all.
Sure San Antonio didn't plan on Robinson getting hurt, but once he was, they went into full on tank mode and ended up with the 3rd worst record (which historically has led to more #1 picks than any other position).
Pau Gasol was an all star before he ever landed in Los Angeles. All of the major stats (aside from rebounds) his career high was set in Memphis, not Los Angeles. Pau Gasol was a great player before he went to L.A., period.
Pat Riley had been planning for that summer for years. He made all kinds of moves with the sole intention of entering that summer with the ability to offer 3 near max contracts so that he could lure two other top level free agents to play with Wade in Miami. Now sure, he couldn't really know that James and Bosh would go there, but it was only possible because of the groundwork Riley had laid years prior.
Sure it takes some luck to build a champion, but every championship team is built by some sort of plan. Maybe it is a plan like Philly to downright suck for multiple seasons, maybe it is a plan to create cap space for multiple max players and swing for the fences (like Boston did last summer and Miami did in 2010), maybe it is to draft players only to trade them for veterans (like Ainge did in 2008), etc. You don't build a championship team without a plan.
That's fine. I was feeling pretty emotional at the time I wrote the OP.
My point with the San Antonio example was that they got pretty dang lucky, landing the No. 1 pick despite only the third-best odds, and of course it was in the year Duncan was available and the Celtics had the best odds. Third-best odds may have gotten the most No. 1 picks over time, but that's lucky, any way you slice it.
As far as Pau Gasol, I messed up on that one—yes, he was already a good player when the Lakers got him; what I meant to say was that the Lakers got him for what was thought at the time to be peanuts. Marc Gasol turned out to be pretty dang good himself, but at the time, a lot of people thought the Lakers had pulled a big heist, as the Lakers got Pau in exchange for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the draft rights to Marc Gasol, and first round picks in 2008 and 2010 (picks that I think were pretty low).
Riley, meanwhile, had been planning, but as you said, he had no guarantees. If those three had decided to go to CLE or TOR, his planning would've meant very little.
All of which is to say, yeah, there has to be some level of planning. But it also seems to me that a ton of planning could be done but ultimately without a huge payoff. That's certainly possible.