For years, we’ve known what the Brooklyn Nets were doing. General manager Billy King has basically attempted to latch on to the biggest names available, no matter the basketball price, the actual payroll figure, or potential fit with his incumbent roster.
Boston’s most recent motives were also clear. We knew the Boston Celtics were rebuilding. We just have no clue why they’re going about it this way.
As was first reported and then broken by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Boston Celticshave sent the two remaining players from their 2008 NBA Finals-winning “Big Three” to Brooklyn. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will go to the Nets in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Reggie Evans, and a signed-and-traded Keith Bogans. Jason Terry will also head to the Nets, who will also send Boston about as many first round picks as it legally can – the team’s 2014, 2016, and 2018 first rounders, along with the right for Boston to switch 2017 first rounders if Brooklyn’s pick is higher.
On the surface, this seems like your typical fire sale return, even given the status of KG and Pierce. A deeper look reveals something more troubling for Boston fans.
It’s understandable that Boston wanted to engage a rebuilding process, as the team wasn’t exactly threatening to be an Eastern powerhouse even before Rajon Rondo’s ACL tear in March. Garnett and Pierce had various contract options, though, that allowed for one last go of things next year under a brand new coach, or a chance to buy out and waive Pierce on Friday and Garnett the next summer. Neither would be ideal, because Garnett would be the wolf left amongst the veterans, playing for a team that probably wouldn’t make the playoffs.
Teams don’t rebuild with this sort of payroll, though. The Celtics will still be way over the cap next season, and the team enters the 2014 offseason right at the salary cap level due to Wallace’s massive deal (three years, and $33 million after 2012-13), with restricted free agent Avery Bradley ready to hit a market that will have scads of teams working with cap space, and several roster spots left to fill.
Real cap relief, the hallmark for any rebuilding team, won’t really set in until the 2015 offseason. And that’s when Rajon Rondo, sick of it all, could flee as a free agent. By the way, Gerald Wallace will still be on the books (two full years after the Chicago Bulls basically ignored him on offense during Brooklyn’s first round loss earlier this year) for over $10.1 million.
The reward for all this cash, and all this patience? Most likely four of the Nets’ upcoming five first round picks.
Is that worth it? I understand that Garnett only had a few teams he would propose waiving his no-trade clause for, to say nothing of the massive salaries KG ($11.5) and Pierce ($16.7) are set to make next season, but was this the best Danny Ainge could do? It’s not even a deal that was only NBA-legal on NBA draft night, either, as the deal can’t formerly be announced until July 10. There were no timely stipulations, outside of a mutual insistence on getting it done, that forced the teams to agree to it on June 27.
It’s not all that great for the Nets, either. Or, more specifically, the outlook isn’t all that bright despite all these famous players that you’ve heard a lot about.