Instant Trade Analysis: Garnett and Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn Nets get: F/C Kevin Garnett, SF Paul Pierce, SG Jason Terry
Boston Celtics get: F Kris Humphries, SF Gerald Wallace, SG Keith Bogans, SF Kris Joseph, SG MarShon Brooks, 1st round picks in 2014, 2016, 2018 and rights to swap picks in 2017
First and foremost, let’s take a minute to memorialize The Big Three Era in Boston: you broke my spirit and I hated you with every part of my being. You played beautiful basketball to the detriment of any opponent without enough toughness to deal with it. You will be remembered as champions, though your longest lasting contribution might be bullying LeBron James for long enough that you helped him blossom into potentially the best basketball player ever. Rest in peace, or not. You assholes.
That felt good.
Let’s get this out of the way: the Celtics made the right move here. Doc is gone, Rondo is recovering from ACL surgery and their offseason moves last year didn’t completely pan out. Jeff Green is a much nicer player than most of us could have ever predicted, Jason Terry doesn’t have as much left in the tank as we all thought and both Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley didn’t develop exactly as planned. Pierce is no doubt a Celtics legend, but there’s no room for sympathy compared with delaying a rebuilding period. It’s obvious that GM Danny Ainge still bears the scars of the 1993-2007 C’s, who stunk for 15 years because the team never dealt guys like Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and company in order to plan for the future. I would spend more time talking about the impact of Pierce’s departure in Boston, but my wheelchair of sympathy is being carted out of the arena.

There’s also a lot of bellyaching that the Celtics couldn’t get anything better than the package they received from the Nets. However, remember an important factor here: Kevin Garnett had a very rare no-trade clause. There’s no telling exactly how many deals that put down the toilet before they even got started, but there’s no doubt that it limited exactly what Ainge could do here.

Boston had four qualifications in finding a trade partner: find a team with a load of draft picks, big enough contracts to make the money work (KG and Pierce make a combined $26 million next season), enough of a future for a 37 year-old Garnett to waive his no-trade clause and the ability to take on either Jason Terry or Courtney Lee’s contracts. The Brooklyn Nets fit the profile where many teams–most teams–would not.

In that regard, the Celtics did a really solid job here. They garnered three first round picks and the ability to swap picks in 2017. For 2014 and 2016, there’s a solid chance those won’t be even close to the first half of the draft. But 2017 and 2018? A lot can happen in 5 years, and that’s a pretty solid gamble for the C’s to roll the dice on. On the player side however, Boston didn’t get anything besides salary cap ballast. Humphries is a decent player, but could be waived at some point during the season. Brooks still has some value, though he’ll find it difficult to break into the C’s backcourt unless Courtney Lee gets dealt within the next couple months. Boston would be best served giving MarShon some minutes in order to deal him later in the season for additional draft assets. Is there any person in the NBA happier than Keith Bogans right now? The luckiest man in the world went from having a mere non-guaranteed training camp invite to being a human place marker who’s going to make somewhere between $4-6 million dollars just to make the trade work.

(Phone rings)
Keith Bogans: Keith Bogans, professional basketball free agent here. Who’s this?
Billy King: It’s me, Billy King, Keith.
Bogans: Oh shit. Am I cut already? Like, before training camp even starts? Dude, just give me a chance, I promise I’m better than Jerry Stackhouse. The guy is like 70 years old. How do you even have my number? I just showed up at the arena last year and Carlisemo thought I was on the team…
King: Actually Keith, I’m calling because we need you to sign a $5 million dollar deal to make this KG/Pierce deal work. You actually don’t have to go anywhere or do anything. Boston will probably waive your worthless ass in September. You don’t even have to report. You can just sit there and collect checks.
Bogans: ….wut?

For Boston the obvious personnel downside for this trade (aside from burning down the foundations of a once champion-caliber team) is taking on Gerald Wallace’s 3 years, $30 million left on his massive mistake of a contract. That’s certainly not going to be fun to pay for a guy who can’t defend or shoot anymore, but towards the end of this two or three year rebuilding period, he’ll be a very nice expiring contract to pedal for some decent assets. What’s most surprising here is the Nets’ ability to admit their mistake so early and dump a deal they signed less than a year ago. Absorbing a Billy King brain fart is simply part of the cost of three and a half first round picks in this case.

This trade shed light on several different impressions we may have had all had, but this is for sure: Nets owner Mikhail Prokorhov gives zero fucks about the luxury tax. Brooklyn will pay over $80 million dollars next year in taxes, which will only increase year over year. The billionaire Russian industrialist apparently won’t flinch from any of those costs, and will continue to build a team with five players making double figure salaries when the salary cap is around $59 million. Unbelievable. However, keep this in mind in regards to the money: the Nets did not take on the longest contract here. KG is owed 2 years and $24 million, Pierce 1 year and $15 million and Terry just 2 years and $10 million. Even without the incoming players, Brooklyn will be a capped out mess in the summer of 2015 to the tune of $61 million (!) for just Lopez, Williams and Johnson alone. The team will have no picks, but they wouldn’t be able to add any new players anyway. Brooklyn is very, very much all-in here–nothing short of two Finals appearances in the next two years will make this all worth it. The Nets must sense that Miami is vulnerable, especially with a bruising front line of Garnett, Lopez and Reggie Evans gobbling up rebounds and pounding a small Heat big man corps. The future of the Nets is now, and the actual future of the Nets is fucked.

As for how the team will perform on the court, new coach Jason Kidd makes it extremely difficult to forecast. He hasn’t given much indication what type of offense the Nets will run, though one would suspect it will be heavily point guard driven. Defensively, it’s now obvious that Garnett will essentially be an assistant coach on the floor, coordinating a very mediocre Brooklyn unit (I’m halfway afraid that he might break down one night and threaten to eat Brook Lopez’s children when the center only grabs 3 boards). If the Nets can stay on the floor, I see no reason why they can’t succeed–they’ve got championship-tested players, a stout defensive mindset, a great point guard to lead the offense, tough rebounding and a lot of great shooting out there. The key to a top-heavy team of stars–as the 2012-2013 Lakers will attest–is health.

Old players break down all the time, but moreso when holding up an untenable load while other players are hurt. We watched last year as every Laker crumbled to the ground with injury, but the problem wasn’t just age alone. Part of the reason why guys like Steve Blake, Metta World Peace, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol went down (and kept going down) is because they were playing extremely heavy minutes night after night with Mike D’Antoni unable (or unwilling) to spell them. At the beginning of the season, the idea was that the young star in Dwight Howard would be able to carry the burden of scoring AND defense, while lessening the responsibilities on his older teammates. Well. We know how that turned out. Dwight’s injury began the domino effect that eventually took everyone down around him (perhaps a little foreshadowing, no?). Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson HAVE to stay healthy next year for this to work, which might be difficult considering so much of their recent history is riddled with injury. The success for the Nets starts with their incumbent stars; without their health, their veteran imports will not be effective.

The hidden keys here are guys like Mirza Teletovic, Reggie Evans and CJ Watson. They’ll have to play big minutes (probably in the neighborhood of 15-20 a night) behind 30-somethings like Johnson, Garnett and Pierce, and stay effective enough while doing it. On the management side, GM Billy King has gotta hit some homers this year with minimum salary guys to supplement an already thin bench. The overriding theme for the Nets this year must be to keep the veterans on this team preserved for the playoffs. Luckily Brooklyn has an old guy at the helm who will hopefully understand that.

Without this trade, the Nets were going to be eliminated in the second round by the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers or the reigning champions. Now? They’re a top 3 or 4 seed in the East and a nightmare matchup for the Heat. Both teams came out on top here, though Brooklyn all but ensured that they’ll have a very similar rebuilding project in 3 years time.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *