With the 2017 NBA draft fast approaching, all eyes are on the Boston Celtics and their litany of draft assets. This year the Celtics will swap picks with the Brooklyn Nets for their first round pick, meaning the Nets will miss out on one of the most highly touted drafts in recent years. This is nothing new for the Nets as they have previously given up their first round pick in 2014 and 2016 and are set to do so again in 2018. The reason the Nets are in this mess comes as a result of what could be considered one of the worst trades of the decade, that completely destroyed the Nets prospects for the foreseeable future.
On July of 2013, the Brooklyn Nets acquired Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, D.J White and a conditional 2017 second round pick from the Boston Celtics, in return for Keith Bogans, Marshon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, three first round pick in 2014, 2016 and 2018 as well as rights to swap first round picks in this years upcoming draft. Just looking at this trade on paper the Nets gave up way too much.
We can only look at this trade and shake our heads. Brooklyn traded away their whole future for a pair of washed-up stars and a back-up point guard. Although, the context of the trade kind of makes sense; Brooklyn were going through a rebrand and were trying to draw crowds to the recently opened Barclays centre. In an effort to “win now” the Nets decided to go all in to get two former superstars. But seriously, what was the Nets General Manager, Billy King thinking?
The previous year Brooklyn had finished fourth in the Eastern conference on a 49-33 record with their core of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. The addition of KG and Pierce in conjunction with new coach Jason Kidd meant the hype was real around the Nets going in to the 2013-14 season. What they didn’t take into account however was that they were gaining a way past his prime KG, and Pierce who had just put up his third worst career numbers averaging 18.6 points the previous season. The Nets stumbled to a 44-38 record, attaining the fifth spot in the East and after beating the Raptors in the first round, they were quickly dismantled by Lebron James and the Heat in five games. In two seasons with the Nets, Garnett couldn’t stay healthy and in 102 regular season games he only averaged 6.7 points and 6.6 rebounds a game in 20.4 minutes of action and was traded to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young in 2015. Pierce quickly jumped ship after the 2013-14 season after averaging a new career low 13.5 points across 75 games and joined an up and coming Wizards squad. And just like that the Nets had lost almost everything they had traded for two seasons earlier.
Going into the 2015-16 season the Brooklyn roster was a mere skeleton of what it had been two years prior. The Nets waived Deron Williams after the 2014-15 season where he averaged 13 points on 38% shooting and he quickly signed up with Mavs. The Nets rolled out a squad the following season where they had the choice of Donald Sloan, Jarrett Jack or Shane Larkin at point guard and Brook Lopez was the team’s highest scorer averaging just over 20 points a game. Last season the only player remaining on the Nets from the 2013-14 season was Lopez who has seen a steady decline in stats the last couple of seasons. The past two seasons the Nets posted win to loss ratios of 21-61 and 20-62 for the 2015-16 season and 2016-17 season respectively.
Meanwhile, as Brooklyn have deteriorated over 4 seasons, the Celtics have begun to reap the rewards. The belief in 2013 was that (somehow) Brooklyn would still be contending for championships to this date, meaning that any obtained picks would be mid to late first rounders. Funnily enough, this did not happen. Boston used their acquired draft rights to draft Marcus Smart with the sixth pick in 2014 who has been a strong defensive contributor off the bench for the last few seasons, and Jaylen Brown with the third pick in 2016 who despite having a fairly average rookie season has shown a lot of potential for the Celtics. This years draft is where these trade chips seem most relevant. As Boston has the rights to swap picks with Brooklyn – which, considering the Nets have the highest chance to land the number one pick – they undoubtedly will. Depending on the results of the upcoming lottery, Boston may look to draft one of the many highly touted prospects such as Ball, Fultz or Jackson, or they may incorporate their draft picks in a trade deal to acquire a star like George or Butler that Boston need to legitimately contend in the East. As well as this the Nets are set to also lose their 2018 pick which is likely to be a high one based on the Nets current pattern in the Eastern conference standings.
The future of the Nets is not exactly bright. The disastrous trade of 2013 should come as a warning to all NBA teams; You should definitely not trade away your future for two washed up stars first of all. But especially when it’s your only leverage in any future negotiations. Now their only player who might have any value is Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, having shown interesting potential as a defensive power forward in his first two seasons in the league. With little cap room and no draft picks until 2019, the Nets are essentially stuck in the NBA’s no man’s land for the foreseeable future.