In the NBA's first summer blockbuster, the Celtics will send future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, according to sources. What does the trade mean for each side? Our panel examines the deal.
1. Good move or bad move for the Nets?
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: A wash. As TrueHoop Network alumnus Bret LaGree tweeted earlier Thursday, "Every conversation in the Nets front office [begins] with, 'You know who used to be really good?'" Are the Nets now better than Miami? Indiana? Chicago with a healthy Derrick Rose? That would put them in a dogfight for the fourth seed, which is precisely where they ended up in April.
Jeremy Gordon, Brooklyn's Finest: I'll cop out and call it an interesting move. There are too many questions to prejudge it as a success or failure, but if Garnett and Pierce return at their level from last season, have their minutes managed wisely and immediately jell with the team, it has to be a success. Those two plus Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez take the Nets from middle-of-the-road to Eastern Conference contender. They also should make the Nets a lot more fun to follow, and isn't that the point?
Brian Robb, Celtics Hub: Good move. Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Paul Pierce are old, but all three are still valuable players in the league. Given Brooklyn's limited flexibility in bringing in useful contributors under the new CBA rules, it's hard to argue against making the ultimate push to win now.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: If you've got an owner willing to absorb all the financial implications of this trade, it's a great move. The Nets weren't going to be able to trade Johnson. They didn't have an otherwise clear path to improving such a high-priced roster. And it's not as though they've thrown away the chance to get under the cap any time soon. So if the boss is willing to let his luxury-tax bill skyrocket, why would you ever protest?
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: It's a good short-term move. The talent changing directions at the moment obviously favors Brooklyn. There's no way to know what those draft picks will mean over the long haul. For the past few years the Nets have been spending like maniacs for short-term returns. This move will give them a lot of experience and the ability to play very big, but I'm not sure if it helps them beat a team like the Heat, who are much more athletic, or a team like the Pacers, who can match up and are also more athletic. The Nets are better, but I'm not sure how much better. Said the same thing about their team last year.
2. Good move or bad move for the Celtics?
Arnovitz: Good-ish. With this trade, the Big Dig officially begins in Boston. The Celtics have gutted their roster, but as consolation they now hold six first-round picks over the next three drafts. The Gerald Wallace contract is an albatross, but in their quest to get better by getting worse, they aren't exactly in the market to acquire high-dollar talent.
Gordon: Good move, because the Celtics weren't going to contend with this core, and they have positioned themselves to reload extensively through the draft over the next few years while getting back some of their cap space. If they can immediately deal Wallace's contract, even better. Better to rip off the Band-Aid than slowly and painfully pull it off.
Robb: Best deal available. Too early to say good or bad. It was certainly the biggest haul Boston was going to get for Pierce and Garnett this summer. However, I'm still not crazy about the deal. No valuable breathing assets in return at this point in time, and a trio of what likely will be late first-round picks from Brooklyn? It's better than nothing, but still quite the crapshoot.
Stein: Sad move for the Celtics. I'm a sappy old hoops romantic. I wanted to see Pierce retire in green. The reality is that they made the right move to go for multiple picks in a deal with the only team in the NBA universe that was willing and able (thanks to Garnett's no-trade clause) to take back both Pierce and KG. Hard to argue that Danny Ainge was going to have a better option. But this whole end-of-an-era stuff in Boston has been rather abrupt for us romantics to take.
Windhorst: It's not a good trade for them. They were handcuffed because they had such limited options thanks to the Garnett no-trade clause. They also made sending Pierce to a contender a priority, which is honorable but doesn't really serve the needs of the franchise. It probably would have served them better if they just were heartless and sent Pierce to the highest bidder. They cleared some long-term salary, but they're still going to be paying Kris Humphries and Wallace more than $22 million next season. That's not good. I suppose they'll sell all these draft picks but, in case you didn't watch the draft, those picks are crapshoots.
3. Where do the Nets now rank in the East?
Arnovitz: If the Knicks can't reload and the Hawks slow-play their future, then Brooklyn will rank fourth behind Miami, Indiana and Chicago -- exactly where they finished last season. The Nets are old, slow, not terribly stretchy and still average defensively, even with Garnett.
Gordon: Second- or third-best depending on how Derrick Rose comes back for the Bulls. KG and Pierce should lend the Nets the violent edge they were missing last season -- please, let's hear a visiting beat writer call them "heartless" -- and if they can fill the bench out in a respectable way and stay healthy, they should be able to give the Heat a real series.
Robb: Third-best. The starting lineup is scary good on paper, but unless some adequate bench pieces are brought in, it's tough to put them ahead of the Indiana Pacers at this juncture. Once we know more about how the rest of the roster will be filled out, as well as Jason Kidd's coaching abilities, Brooklyn could jump ahead of Indiana.
Stein: Let's not put 'em any higher than third just yet. The Pacers are going to be better next season just by virtue of what they experienced this season. The Bulls -- specifically Rose -- still have the respect of Las Vegas even though we haven't seen D-Rose on the floor for more than a year. Yet even after saying all that, I do give the Nets some hope of becoming the East's biggest threat to Miami now. Johnson might ultimately have to move to a sixth-man role for the good of rookie coach Jason Kidd's rotation -- and they're going to have to get lucky finding some athleticism at bargain prices along the way -- but I do think Pierce and KG can bring a nightly dose of toughness and playoff know-how that will do a lot for Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. But I'm an NBA romantic. Remember?
Windhorst: They were the No. 4 seed in the East this last season but obviously weren't better than the No. 5 Bulls, and Chicago is getting Rose back. I don't put them ahead of the Heat or Pacers. They may pass the Knicks. I expect them to be a tough out in the playoffs because of all the veteran leaders who can take over a playoff game. I expect them to add some role players to the bench who will come to New York to play for cheap.
4. Should the Celtics trade Rajon Rondo in the next year?
Arnovitz: If they can get value for him, yes. He won't be much more amenable to the rebuilding effort than Doc Rivers was, and Rondo isn't exactly a congenial dude when things are rosy. But as always, the answer to this question is contingent on what they can fetch in return. A lottery pick and another first-rounder?
Gordon: No. The Celtics should be able to bottom out just fine with or without Rondo on the roster, so I'm not sure if it's necessary. He's an All-NBA player on a below-market deal, and there's no reason to rush things unless he sees the post-trade, post-Doc wasteland he's coming back to and says, "Yeah, no."
Robb: No. His market value isn't very high right now coming off his ACL injury. Plus it doesn't make sense to deal your most valuable (and most marketable) asset away, especially when he is still in his prime. The key for Ainge now is to surround Rondo with the right pieces as the Celtics build for the future.
Stein: Doesn't matter what you or I think. Ainge is going to do it whether or not we push for it. Word on the street is that Ainge is worried more about the 2014 lottery than the standings. If that's the case, everyone in Boston will be much happier if Rondo is dealt before they ask him to try to stomach the nightly grind of being the face of a team just starting to rebuild.
Windhorst: It sounds like they might. Ainge has told people he plans to build around Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger. It sure seems like they'll be "rebuilding" next season to set themselves up for a good draft pick in the supposedly great 2014 draft. They've been dangling Rondo for years now. He'll have to prove he's healthy, but I expect teams to be looking to get him. Ainge is setting a standard here that he doesn't require proven talent back in big deals.
5. Should Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have retired as Celtics?
Arnovitz: In the romantic storybook version of the tale? Sure. But it doesn't make a lot of sense for the Celtics to sputter into the postseason for the next two seasons to satisfy sentiment.
Gordon: It's a nice, sentimental thought to think they might have. But if Michael Jordan didn't retire as a Bull, what weight does sentimentality carry? It's not as if anyone will ever think of Pierce as anything but a Celtic unless he somehow carries the Nets to consecutive titles.
Robb: Ideally, yes. It was never going to happen under Ainge's watch, though. Both players are still playing at a high level, and if they had their way, they would continue to do so in Boston. I feel Garnett and Pierce had earned that right to a degree. While I understand Ainge's vision to move forward, I'm not sure the return for both players was compelling enough to justify tearing the team apart entirely. Time will tell.
Stein: Ideally? Of course. But Ainge did work with the two modern-day Celtics legends to get them to a situation where they can go out together. He didn't just dump Pierce somewhere in the name of getting a sexier pick when he maybe could have. Ainge took care of them as well as he could -- including Rivers -- without hurting his own franchise. It's not the most romantic story in NBA history, but KG and Pierce can't quibble too loudly.
Windhorst: I'm not sentimental about this sort of stuff, so I'm probably the wrong person to ask. I think Pierce has proved he's one of the all-time great Celtics, and they'll both have their numbers lifted to the rafters and will be remembered forever as Celtics. If anything, the Celtics took what I think is a rather bad deal to make sure their final years can be spent contending. That was some gesture.
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
Kevin Arnovitz, Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst cover the NBA for ESPN.com. Jeremy Gordon and Brian Robb are part of the TrueHoop Network.
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