On NBA Draft night in 2013, the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets agreed to one of the most significant trades in recent memory, with the Celtics sending Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph and three unprotected first-round draft picks.
At the time, everyone knew Brooklyn overpaid. The players the Nets sent to Boston were immaterial; it was about the draft picks.
However, Brooklyn already had Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez on the roster, so adding the likes of Pierce and Garnett was seen as a move that could potentially put the Nets over the top in the Eastern Conference.
Needless to say, that did not happen.
Pierce and Garnett, while still effective, were clearly no longer the same players they were during previous years (something that was becoming blatantly obvious during their final season in Boston), and Lopez ended up suffering a foot injury in December that knocked him out for the season.
The Nets did manage to make it to the second round of the playoffs, but their old, tired legs fell to the Miami Heat in five games.
Meanwhile, Danny Ainge and the Celtics had just pulled off a coup that was arguably the most lopsided trade in the history of the league, or at least one of them.
Sure, Boston was a sub-30 win team the following year, and in 2015, it only made the playoffs a weak 7-seed, but before you knew it, the C’s had built a powerhouse after drafting Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum with the first two Nets picks and then trading their last remaining Brooklyn draft choice in a deal that landed them Kyrie Irving.
And then you had the Nets, toiling in the basement of the East while not having any draft choices to actually make themselves better.
Even the most die-hard Brooklyn fan would probably have trouble naming a lot of the players on the Nets roster over those next few seasons, as Brooklyn looked completely lost and devoid of hope.
Things are looking a bit better at the Barclays Center now, as the Nets are actually a respectable team with some decent young players like Jarrett Allen, D’Angelo Russell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and, when healthy, Caris LeVert, but that trade still stings in a big way to this day.
As well as Brooklyn has been playing of late, the franchise is still in horrible shape. As a matter of fact, the Nets’ recent winning ways are actually a curse more than a gift, as they are moving themselves further and further away from the potential of earning a top-five draft pick, which is exactly what they need to get out of this current ditch.
Let’s face it: the chances of any big-name free agents signing in Brooklyn are slim to none. These days, players want to win. Sure, big markets are nice, but there is a reason why the Los Angeles Lakers had been having so much trouble getting All-Stars to come to Hollywood until landing LeBron James this past summer, and the New York Knicks have not signed any huge names since Amar’e Stoudemire back in 2010.
Had the Nets not made that fateful draft night trade, they would surely be in much better shape right now.
Well, who knows, as Billy King would have still been their general manager at the time and may very well have messed up in some other way, but nothing could have possibly been as bad as that deal with the Celtics, which may as well have been a deal with the devil.
Looking at Brooklyn’s roster right now, you see some okay pieces. For example, Allen looks like he could be a Clint Capela-type, which is great. Russell is a decent scorer, Hollis-Jefferson can defend multiple positions and LeVert is pretty smooth offensively.
The problem is, there is no All-Star potential there, which is what you need to contend and win titles in this league, and the way you get that type of talent is generally through the draft.
Barring a trade, the Nets will have a draft pick this summer, but with their current record at 19-21, they actually have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, which would be disastrous.
You can say what you want about how the postseason experience will help Brooklyn’s young guys, but come on; you know as well as I do that that roster isn’t going anywhere.
The Nets need talent desperately, and six years later, they are still having a hard time finding a way to get it.