Having won no less than 17 NBA titles in their decorated history, the Boston Celtics are the most successful team in the history of the sport. This was thanks in large part to some very impressive dealings courtesy of a renowned Celtics front office.
Upon researching and reviewing Celtics history, we’ve come up with the top five trades in all of Boston’s celebrated history.
5. Dennis Johnson (1983)
Traded from the Phoenix Suns with two draft picks for Rick Robey and two second-round picks.
Dennis Johnson is perhaps one of the most underrated pieces of the Celtics dynasty of the 1980s. The 6-foot-4 guard played a key role for Boston during their memorable title runs in ’84 and ’86, serving as a team starter on both championship seasons. Johnson even managed a call-up to the All-Star squad in 1985, which serves as testament to the fact that he was one of the best guards in the league at that time.
Johnson arrived in Boston via a trade deal with the Phoenix Suns in 1983, which in hindsight, did not really turn out to be one of the best moments of the Suns front office in the ’80s.
4. The Brooklyn Deal (2013)
Traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, D.J. White, a future first- round pick and a future second-round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, and four future first-round picks.
We have the 2007 Kevin Garnett trade deal later on here on our list, but when the Celtics dealt him away in 2013 as part of that amazing trade with the Brooklyn Nets, it’s safe to say that Boston’s front office won that deal by a mile. So much so, that it cracked our top five list today.
For starters, it was so impressive how team general manager Danny Ainge managed to convert an aging Garnett and Paul Pierce into assets that pretty much secured the future for Boston. The players they got in exchange were not game-changing whatsoever, but the future draft picks haul took this deal over the edge. The Celtics got their hands on no less than four future first-rounders, which eventually became Jaylen Brown in 2016, Jayson Tatum in 2017 (traded the first overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, who selected Markelle Fultz), and last but not least, Kyrie Irving also in 2017 (traded the 2018 first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers). Quite a return on their investment, right?
3. Kevin Garnett (2007)
Traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves for Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair.
As promised, here is the famed Kevin Garnett trade deal from 2007, which served as the impetus for the Celtics’ title run that same year.
Being the franchise player of the Minnesota Timberwolves at that time, the Celtics had to give up a massive haul to get their hands on KG. In the end, however, it proved to be all worth it.
Garnett proved to be the missing piece for Boston, as he formed an awe-inspiring superteam with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. The Celtics won their first NBA championship in nearly two decades in Garnett’s firsts season with the team.
2. Bill Russell (1956)
Traded from the St. Louis Hawks for Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley.
In what remains to be one of the most bizarre trade-centered moments in NBA history, then-Celtics owner Walter Brown reportedly sent the famed Ice Capades for a week to Rochester in order to sway the Royals not to take Bill Russell with their first overall pick in the 1956 NBA Draft. The Royals came through, and took Si Green first overall, handing over Bill Russell to the St. Louis Hawks as the second pick.
Boston obviously did not pull off this stunt for St. Louis, and they quickly traded for Russell on draft night for Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley, who themselves had Hall of Fame careers. Then again, Russell is regarded by many as the greatest Celtics player of all time, so we all know how this deal worked out for Boston.
1. Robert Parish and Kevin McHale (1980)
Traded from the Golden State Warriors for two first-round picks.
Edging out the Russell deal is the 1980 transaction that landed the Celtics not just one, but two all-time greats in Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.
This deal was the definition of a blockbuster trade, with then-team general manager Red Auerbach pulling off the greatest trade in Celtics franchise history. Sending over the first and 13th overall pick of the 1980 draft to the Golden State Warriors, what Boston got in return was simply astounding.
The trade sent a 27-year-old Robert Parish who was approaching his prime (he made nine All-Star appearances over the next 11 seasons with the Celtics) to Boston, along with the rights for the third overall pick of that same draft. Boston took Kevin McHale using that pick, and the rest, as they say, is history.