On June 28, 2013, the day of the NBA draft, the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets reached an agreement on a blockbuster trade. In this trade, the Nets received two future hall of famers in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, along with Jason Terry and D.J. White. The Celtics received five players alongside Brooklyn’s 2014, 2016, and 2018 first round picks. In addition, Boston also got the rights to swap first-round picks in 2017. After this trade, it was obvious that the Nets were going into complete win-now mode as they traded away their future for a couple of aging stars. At the time, Paul Pierce was 36 and Kevin Garnett was 37. Hindsight is always 20/20 but even at the time of this trade, people thought it was idiotic to throw their future away for a couple of decent seasons, especially when they still had to fight off Lebron in the East.
Paul Pierce only played a single season in Brooklyn and averaged a disappointing 13.5 PPG and 4.6 RPG. To add to this, Kevin Garnett averaged 6.5 PPG and 6.6 RPG in a year and a half with the team. Garnett’s efficiency rating dropped from 19.2 to 13.3. After this season, Garnett would return to Minnesota and Pierce was shipped to Washington. Jason Terry was a pretty good role player but also only played one season for the team. Personally, I believe that the Celtics still came close to winning the trade even if you remove most of the draft capital that was shipped to Boston.
To begin with, the 2014 first round pick wasn’t all that valuable as the Nets put together a 44-win season. The Celtics ended up picking 17th and took James Young. In 2016, the Nets roster began to crumble as they became a consistent lottery team. The Celtics ended up taking Jaylen Brown at 3rd overall. The following year, Brooklyn had another disappointing year and was granted the first overall pick in the lottery. The Celtics obviously decided to exercise their rights to exchange draft picks. The Celtics decided to trade down to #3 with Philly and ended up taking rising superstar Jayson Tatum at this spot. They got pick #14 as a result of this and took Romeo Langford out of Indiana. The final domino of this blockbuster trade was the 2018 first round pick. This pick was eventually traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a trade for superstar PG Kyrie Irving. As one can see, the reason this trade is now seen as so lopsided is because of all the draft capital the Celtics received and how great of a job they did of utilizing it.
As a result of this trade, the Nets were in win-now mode and expected to have a chance to beat Lebron’s Heat out of the East. In their one season together in Brooklyn, they ended with a 44-38 record. This earned them the 6 seed in the playoffs. This was obviously an underwhelming season as they basically traded away their whole future but they were seen as a sleeper in the playoffs. They ended up beating the 3 seed Toronto Raptors in the first round series. They then advanced to play the Heat in the second round where they eventually lost 4-1. Undoubtedly, this season fell short of expectations and ultimately put the icing on the cake for how horrendous of a trade this was.
The Nets General Manager at the time was Billy King. He took full responsibility for the lopsided trade. He stated “I was the GM . . . I’m responsible”. Many people put the blame on the pressure of the owner Mikhail Prokhorov for the trade but I think it was a mix of both. King spoke on this topic and had this to say, “I won’t say that they were sitting there hammering me, but it was a big part”. He also said if he was the GM of another team at the time, he probably wouldn’t have made the trade.
In conclusion, this trade was one of, if not the, most lopsided trades in NBA history. This blockbuster helped Danny Ainge turn the Celtics into title contenders in just a few seasons. After the Nets changed ownership, they have been headed in the right direction. During the past off season, they acquired Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving off of free agency. This sets their expectations extremely high for the 2021 season. This trade hurt the Nets a ton at the time, but it seems as though they have fully recovered.