Posted June 28, 2013

Nets make significant short-term gains in blockbuster deal with Celtics

Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett

Paul Pierce (left) and Kevin Garnett will help Brooklyn on both ends of the court. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry will soon join a Nets team that has sacrificed most every future asset for a wild stab at contention. It’s a reckless strategy, but one with an uncompromising clarity of purpose.

Brooklyn hasn’t bothered to hedge or restrain. Every move has been made to maximize the Nets’ effectiveness in the present, with money as no object and financial flexibility no concern. Brooklyn’s cap sheet was heavy with ink as it was, but with Thursday’s trade agreement with Boston, the Nets picked up almost another $10 million in 2013-14 salary while also reportedly committing to the full value ($12 million) of Garnett’s nonguaranteed contract in 2014-15.

THOMSEN: End of an era for Boston

The payroll is ridiculous, and the impending luxury-tax payment equally so. But this is the path the Nets have chosen, which is why it should come as little surprise that Brooklyn packaged MarShon Brooks, three first-round picks (2014, ’16, ’18) and the right to swap first-round picks in 2017 for a 37-year-old big man who could retire at the end of the season, a 35-year-old wing who will be a free agent next summer and a 35-year-old reserve guard. That may be shortsighted, but it’s perfectly in character for the Mikhail Prokhorov-owned and Billy King-run Nets.

And frankly, considering how far gone Brooklyn already is in terms of selling out its future, a few first-round picks (with one or more likely to land in the 20s) likely wouldn’t do much to salvage the Nets’ nonexistent long game. The inclusion of so many first-rounders represents a doubling down on the initial strategy, but their cost is mitigated by the fact that Brooklyn already has about $63 million in salary committed for the 2015-16 season and even more in the years before. Brooklyn has its timetable and puts the ability to win games today over the capacity to position a team to win them tomorrow.

It’s a careless, indulgent way to run a basketball team, but at least King has succeeded in acquiring the kind of veterans who will make the Nets demonstrably better. Garnett and Pierce aren’t the franchise centerpieces they once were, but their arrival immediately puts Brooklyn closer to the Eastern Conference’s contenders. The Nets have wiped out offensive dead weight in favor of players who can contribute as both creators and finishers — offense’s alpha and omega. That’s a dramatic shift. With Gerald Wallace gone and Reggie Evans set to be used more marginally, this marks the end of the Nets’ claustrophobic spacing. In the postseason, Chicago demonstrated how simply and effectively any opponent could cheat away from Wallace and Evans in order to pressure Brooklyn’s more viable threats.

GOLLIVER: Grading the Celtics-Nets trade

Brook Lopez needs to be crowded. Deron Williams needs to be repelled. Joe Johnson needs to be attended to. But offensive non-factors such as Wallace (who shot 39.7 percent from the field and 28.2 percent from three-point range last season) and Evans (who can’t do much when he’s standing more than a few feet from the basket) need to be left alone — their meager threats conceded as a means of accounting for the rest. That’s no longer an option for Brooklyn’s opponents. Pierce and Garnett — who will slide into the positional gaps that Wallace and Evans leave behind — are too capable of making shots to be ignored on the perimeter.

Consider Wallace’s shooting (and projected threat as a scorer):

wallace

… compared to Pierce’s:

pierce

Or Evans’ nonexistent scoring game:

evans

…compared to Garnett’s range:

garnett

Brooklyn managed to put together a top-10 offense in the regular season, but with Pierce and Garnett, the Nets are poised to be more efficient and even more elastic. They now have a fascinating, floor-spreading base lineup from which to operate. Consider:

• The Nets can initiate offense from any conceivable direction.

• All three starting perimeter players — Williams, Johnson and Pierce — can create for themselves and others.

• Inside-out play becomes more viable with better shooters and passers in the mix, prepared to burn any opponent who overcommits.

• All five starters can post up effectively.

• An expanded pick-and-roll corps can control matchups and keep opponents guessing.

• The addition of more versatile players makes it that much easier for rookie coach Jason Kidd to build and sustain lineups.

Last season, the Nets’ slow play and limitations made them a stale team. But next season they have the potential to be one of the league’s most dominant half-court teams.

Naturally, though, that endeavor would also require a significant improvement on the other end of the floor, which may well be possible. Terry won’t help much in that regard, but Pierce just played a superior defensive season to Wallace and Garnett may be the closest thing the NBA has to a portable defensive system. Brooklyn may not completely crib the specifics of the Boston system over which Garnett lorded, but given that former Celtics assistant (and defensive curator) Lawrence Frank is now on Kidd’s staff, it’s reasonable to expect similar tenets. Garnett will be the champion of those systemic rules, harping on his new teammates to ensure that they’re done justice.

Garnett is also a nice defensive complement to Lopez, who quietly improved the timing and technique of his pick-and-roll defense last season. Lopez was still too exploitable in those situations to be the anchor of a top defense, but he has made enough progress to act as a solid supporting big man next to a tone-setter like Garnett.

Garnett’s pestering of offensive players in space coupled with Lopez’s contesting ability in the paint forms a far more promising defensive base than what Lopez and Evans were able to provide. There will — and should — be questions about how much influence Garnett can really exert at a time when he’s limited to about 30 minutes a game, but, frankly, sustenance should be a lesser concern for these Nets relative to their ability to execute in general.

Brooklyn wasn’t going anywhere with Wallace and Evans as such prominent pieces, no matter their talents on defense and the glass. With Garnett and Pierce, though, the championship pipe dream is more plausible, if still incredibly unlikely. Miami clearly remains a cut above (and a strange matchup for the new-look Nets), but a trade like this one — if accompanied by smaller, prudent moves to fill out the roster — stands to put Brooklyn on the bottom rung of the next tier of East contenders (Indiana, Chicago).

Whether that’s enough to warrant such a mammoth investment is another matter entirely, but for these Nets, it’s no matter at all. Brooklyn has made its call, opened its coffers and welcomed an even fuller commitment to a win-now philosophy.

24 comments
Cherrie
Cherrie

I have NO faith in DWill and JoeJohn. Hope those Celtic oldies could help take the team where they wanna be at season's end.

nfinitwordsfoto
nfinitwordsfoto

What this move does is put them solidly in the hunt for the number 4 seed in the East.  They're not even close to Miami and I think that the Pacers and Bulls are both much better teams with the return of Rose especially.  The Nets aren't going to be a serious title contender.  I don't understand the reasoning behind mortgaging the future for the now unless you truly have a shot.  The Nets do not truly have that shot. 

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

professional sports is about wining championships not being good. with this move nets got closer

7beers
7beers

frankly, i kinda hope PP and KG retired in Boston

Twen15
Twen15

I agree with the sentiment that there is a possibility that the Nets could be the 2013 Lakers 2.0 but I think the pieces much better. Most of the criticism directed at Joe Johnson tends to touch upon his propensity for passivity--which could actually be a good thing with the dearth of shots to go around. Kevin Garnett serves as the ideal safety-valve jump shooting big man late in the shot clock. And Brook Lopez is an up and coming 2-way center. Compare this to selfish Kobe, redundant Gasol, and an injured and incredibly frustrating Dwight Howard of the Lakers. Deron Williams has years of youth on Nash and Pierce serves as the accomplished crunch-time veteran. The payroll is insane but I believe now is the time to take a shot. Especially since the Heat have proven vulnerable against teams with two legit big men and good coaching and interior defense.

M20
M20

They better hope everything breaks right next year, because it's going to be ugly for a long time after that. In general, I understand the strategy of cashing in the future to go all in now, but with Miami at its peak, this is a very odd time to do it.

John4
John4

Did you apply a calendar to your reasoning?  Aren't Pierce and Garnett old?  Isn't the NBA a younger man's game?  Anyone who thinks the Nets will be a contender in 2013/2014 does not understand basketball.  

Azeron
Azeron

It must be exciting to be a Nets fan these days.

phlkolar
phlkolar

This is gonna be the beta version of Lakers 2012-13 2.0. There will not be enough balls to go around.

bjvande
bjvande

@nfinitwordsfoto  I agree they will probably be a fourth seed at the end of the regular season.  However, It is the defensive improvement that will give the Nets a chance to get to the Eastern Conference finals.    And, if that happens, that same defense gives them a chance to push any Eastern Conference team aside and get to the finals 

M20
M20

@Twen15 I don't at all agree that the Nets' pieces fit better than the Lakers. How is Gasol redundant? He's every bit as good of a big man safety valve as Garnett. Howard is way, way better than Lopez. Nash's game is geared much more towards distributing than Deron's. And Artest is not a guy who needs the ball in his hands to be effective. The Lakers' starting lineup fit together way better on paper than this Nets starting five does. The Nets will have to hope that it all comes together.

Calling the Heat vulnerable is also a reach. SA and Indiana did their very best and the Heat still won. LeBron is close to unbeatable now. The time to take a shot would be 2-3 years from now when the Heat are past their peak.

dave_wakeman
dave_wakeman

@M20 I agree on getting the concept of cashing in to go for it now, but I can't buy into going all in on something like this that means instead of being an incredible long shot to be a Finals caliber team, they are going to be just a very long shot to be a Finals team in the next 2 years.  

M20
M20

@John4 I mean, they COULD be. Pierce and Garnett are still effective. But they have to stay healthy enough, find some cheap bench pieces, hope Deron and Joe Johnson understand that the shots have to be spread around, and hope Kidd quickly comes of age as a coach. It's possible... but that's a lot of variables.

Glenn10
Glenn10

@phlkolar 


And Jason Kidd will be gone after one season for failing to reach the Conference finals will all the money spent on Player's contracts.

JonCBK
JonCBK

@bjvande @nfinitwordsfoto You guys all know that they were the fourth seed this year, right? And that was with DWill being hurt for the first four months of the season (dude couldn't even dunk he was so banged up). 

John4
John4

@MaxSteingrout3 Max - It might be time for you try to communicate a little more clearly.  Do you find humor in your vague comment?  If so, why?  Who is a(n) Hombre Loco?  Me?  Why?  Because my statement was right on?  If not, use your brain a little (for once) and state your case.  Vague comments just make you appear unintelligent.  

John4
John4

@M20 More likely, the Nets foolishly mortgaged their future by trading three future first round picks for two old guys.  (Yes, HOF, but old).  Also their hiring of a Head Coach with NO coaching experience is very risky.  Then the Nets drafted Mason Plumlee who is worthless.  (And if Plumlee is useful for the Nets in 2013/14, then I will have some bad news for you regarding Kevin Garnett).  Basically, the Nets went all in for 2013/14.  Note that the Heat have similar players Bosh for Garnett and LeBron for Pierce.  Garnett could be better than Bosh (again, consult a calendar before making any guarantees about that, and LeBron is better than an aging Pierce.  Do you think the Nets are better than even the Pacers, and if so, how?  I think that KG will play one season for the Nets, Pierce will play two or three, the Nets will win no championships, and then over the course of the next half decade, the Nets will be sending their first round picks to Boston.  I don't get their type of reasoning.

John4
John4

@Glenn10 Please note that VERY FEW good to great NBA players make good NBA coaches.  Kidd can/could play.  Can he coach?  I doubt it.  

caps for emphasis - not yelling!

JonCBK
JonCBK

@M20 @John4 Nets will contend for two years for second, third or fourth seed playoffs. Anything can happen in a seven game series. Then have down year three years from now. Then have max cap space when KD, Lebron and K Love are free agents. They will be able to sign two out of those three to max contracts, then use Bird rights to resign DWill and Lopez to max contracts. And there you have it, they have built another super team. 

It is insane and takes a vast amount of money, but it can be done with the way they have positioned the team.

M20
M20

@John4 @M20 I pretty much agree with you. No, I don't think the Nets are better than the Pacers. I think they'll need a ton of luck just to have any kind of shot at reaching the Finals. Their reasoning is basically this: their owner wants to make a splash and doesn't realize the foolishness of blindly mortgaging the future. He probably thinks he can find some way to bend the rules in a two years when the Nets are entering a long term funk, and he's going to find out the hard way that he's not in Russia anymore.