Grading Celtics-Nets deal for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce
Brooklyn Nets — Grade: B+
Incoming: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry
Outgoing: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries,
Reggie Evans, Keith Bogans, three first-round picks, player(s) to be named later (UPDATE: MarShon Brooks is reportedly headed to Boston, while Evans is not part of the deal.)
Many writers opposed the opulent moves that Brooklyn made last summer, particularly its trade for Joe Johnson and the re-signing of Wallace. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov continues to make roster moves in a manner that demands evaluation by its own standard. Decrying the outrageous sums of money and luxury tax implications is almost always important; with the Russian billionaire, though, it winds up just being a lot of hot air. It’s his money, he’s spending it inefficiently, he seems intelligent enough to realize he’s spending it inefficiently and life moves on.
With that in mind, this trade takes Brooklyn from being neck deep to fully submerged in its pool of financial commitments for next season. The Nets’ projected starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Brook Lopez will cost more than $80 million in 2013-14, well over the luxury tax line by the time they start paying any of their reserve players. This approach is a major gamble on good health for Pierce and Garnett. If one or both of those guys isn’t close to 100 percent during the playoffs, this whole plan falls to pieces rapidly. Brooklyn’s new coach, Jason Kidd, a 40-year-old player last season, should hopefully have a firm grasp on how important it is to keep his oldest vets healthy for the postseason run.
The potential payoff is a legitimage spot on the short list of teams — Indiana, Chicago, New York — that could give Miami a run in the East next season. The Nets were clearly on the outside of that group before this agreement, and they likely still trail Indiana and Chicago in that pecking order, but their position is improved. The cost of three first-round picks could prove to be anywhere from incredible to inconsequential, depending on how the Williams/Johnson/Lopez core holds up. Should this year’s experiment fail, at least Brooklyn got out of the extra years of Wallace’s terrible contract, Pierce comes off the books and there’s always the possibility that Garnett decides to retire. In other words, the trade crimps the Nets hard in the short term but doesn’t really worsen their already bleak long-term financial outlook.
One interesting wrinkle to track: Which veterans will the Nets pick up on minimum deals in free agency with the assumed magnetic appeal that comes with their improved shot at contending? Add a couple of reliable, savvy reserves on the cheap to accompany this star-studded starting lineup and this will look even better.