The Brooklyn Nets made a mistake.
During the 2013 NBA Draft, the Nets front office had an idea. Brooklyn general manager Billy King picked up the phone dialed area code 617 and discussed a trade with the Boston Celtics that would change the trajectory of both franchises over the next decade. That trade required Boston to part ways with Basketball Hall of Fame inductees Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, two aging stars who brought the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Boston, allowing the Celtics to take part in one of the most insane title runs any American city has ever seen.
All that was required of Brooklyn? Giving up their 2014, 2016, and 2018 first-round picks, plus the right to swap first-round picks in 2017.
Now, almost a decade later, the Nets are facing a conference rival in Boston comprised of a core group of players who were drafted with the picks they sent them. Oops.
The Truth About Brooklyn’s Big Ticket 2013 Trade Mistake
In the 2022 NBA Playoffs, the Celtics and Nets faced off in what is already shaping up to be a solid future rivalry in the Eastern Conference. If these two teams keep squaring off, we may have a new Lakers/Celtics-esque feud on our hands. Fueled by recent treasonous actions by Kyrie Irving, who played for the Celtics from 2017 to 2019, things have become contentious between the two squads. But for the franchises they play for, things could not be more one-sided. That’s because the picks Brooklyn sent to Boston for two players who no longer suit up for the Nets are responsible for their current downfall, as the Celtics swept the Nets in four games.
Historically, it’s been Boston who has been bitten by trades. The Curse of the Bambino lasted 86 years and was very real for the entire New England region. Funny enough, the city that benefited most from the Red Sox curse? New York. With the Red Sox being held down by supernatural forces, the Yankees would go on to win 26 of their 27 World Series titles, while their crosstown rivals, the New York Mets, stole a World Series from the Red Sox in 1986.
Since the curse was broken in 2004, the Yankees have only won a single World Series title to the Red Sox four rings. The Mets are still searching for their first win since Bill Buckner’s fielding error and manager John McNamara’s personnel issues handed them a World Series ring.
But this is about basketball, so let’s get back to the story.
The Celtics received the Nets’ first-round picks in 2014, 2016, 2018 and the right to swap picks in 2017, which (spoiler alert) they would exercise. Yes, the Celtics also received former Charlotte Bobcats All-Star Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Tornike Shengelia, Reggie Evans and Keith Bogans, mainly to offset salary. But the picks are the important piece of the blockbuster trade.
And how did those picks work out? Look away, Nets fans.
The Celtics Players Selected with the Draft Picks They Received
- 2014 – James Young. But the Celtics used their other first-rounder on Marcus Smart.
- 2016 – Jaylen Brown.
- 2017 – Jayson Tatum.
- 2018 – Sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Celtics’ trade for Kyrie Irving (who later became a free agent and came to Brooklyn). Boston uses their other first-round pick to select Robert Williams III.
Oops. That’s not great, Brooklyn. Even worse is what the Nets got in return.
Pierce and Garnett were at the end of their careers, but no one expected a downturn like the one they experience in Brooklyn. The 36-year-old Pierce averaged 13.5 points per game, a far cry from his output in his final year for the Celtics. Garnett didn’t fare any better. In Boston, during his final year with the Celtics, Garnett averaged 14.8 points a game. For the Nets? Garnett put up 6.5 points per game.
Yikes, but it gets worse. After one season in Brooklyn, Pierce walked in free agency and signed with the Washington Wizards. Jason Terry, the third big piece of the trade, was traded to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Marcus Thornton. Kevin Garnett was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that he spent the early years of his career with, in exchange for Thaddeus Young. Garnett didn’t magically improve in Minnesota, but you could tell there was a sense of ease in the big man of Boston’s Big 3.
It’s not like the Nets were god awful, as they still had Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez putting up decent performances night after night. The Nets even made the playoffs in 2014 and won their first-round matchup against the Raptors. Were they an NBA Finals contender? No, not by a long shot. Could they have been if they did not acquire two aging stars from Boston? That’s the million-dollar question.
The Nets got one season from Pierce and one and a half seasons from Terry and Garnett. The Celtics got younger and stronger for cheap.
The Worst Trade in Brooklyn Nets’ History Keeps Getting Worse
In their 2022 first-round matchup, the Brooklyn Nets were absolutely swallowed by the suffocating nature of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart‘s ability to neutralize shooters and by the offensive powerhouse that is the “Boston Jays.” Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have been the nucleus of the Boston Celtics since they arrived in Beantown, and they have yet to slow down. In back-to-back drafts, the Celtics found a one-two combo that has been a threat to every Eastern Conference team.
That combo could have been wearing black and white, not kelly green.
To bring themselves back from the brink of disaster and attempt to get back on the right track, the Nets went out and signed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant before then trading more draft picks for James Harden. That Brooklyn Nets team was thought to be an NBA Championship squad, but the Barclays Center has yet to raise a banner. Even more infuriating, the Nets traded James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers for Seth Curry, Andre Drummond two first-round picks, and disgruntled point guard Ben Simmons. Curry and Drummond were solid, while Simmons never stepped a single foot on the court for Brooklyn in 2022. Not great.
At the end of the series, with Boston dominating all the way through, all Nets coach Steve Nash could do was throw his hands up and surrender. There were no more impediments he could throw at Ime Udoka’s squad. Nash had tried everything, and it’s not going to get easier.
The Brooklyn Nets are battling the future they could have had for themselves with a roster of stars who seem to be outmatched. To make matters worse, the Celtics extended Tatum, Brown, Smart and Williams to long-term deals, so this ghost of what-could-have-been isn’t going away anytime soon.
How much longer will Brooklyn be chased by its past?
For the Nets, let’s hope it’s not forever. But at the very least, we’ll have to wait until next year to see if Brooklyn can overcome their past trade mistakes.