It all seems silly now, but four years ago, it appeared as if Danny Ainge had repeated Red Auerbach’s mistake and held onto his aging nucleus for too long. A lethargic-looking team was bested by the lowly Knicks in the first round of the playoffs, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett laboring up the court in all six excruciating games.
The Celtics passed the mantle to the Heat the previous season, when Miami ousted them in a thrilling seven-game Eastern Conference Final. Faced with a 3-2 series deficit, LeBron James scored 45 points in Game 6 at T.D. Garden, asserting himself as the dominant force in the conference for years to come.
But yet, Ainge elected to keep Pierce and Garnett around for one more run. Then Rajon Rondo tore his ACL in January, missing the remainder of the season and destroying the Celtics’ hopes at playoff advancement.
That offseason, it seemed like it would be a tall task for Ainge to acquire value for his two old and depleted Hall of Famers. But then a Russian oligarch intervened. Desperate to win, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov surrendered four first-round picks and a boatload of other assets, including a trade exception, for Garnett and Pierce’s services. It may go down as the most lopsided deal in NBA history.
The Celtics reaped the fruit of the Nets’ haste Monday night, when they won the draft lottery secured the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft for the first time in franchise history. There’s a star-studded crop of prospects on the board this year, including guards Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball. While James Young (No. 17 in 2014) is a project and Jaylen Brown (No. 3 in 2016) is a solid rotation player, the Celtics have a chance to bring in a bonafide star. They also own Brooklyn’s first-round pick in 2018.
What makes this situation so unique, of course, is the fact that the Celtics are in the Eastern Conference Finals. Assuming they keep the selection, they’ll be adding the No. 1 overall pick to a team that’s on the edge of championship contention.
And the man who’s most responsible for that, Isaiah Thomas, can be tied back to the Garnett-Pierce blockbuster as well.
The Celtics acquired Thomas from the Suns at the deadline in 2015 for the Cavaliers’ 2016 first-round selection and guard Marcus Thornton. The C’s scooped up that pick and Thornton along with starting center Tyler Zeller two summers ago in a three-team trade with the Cavaliers and Nets. They were able to facilitate the deal by using their aforementioned $10.4 million trade exception. (In the NBA, a trade is only OK’d if the salaries going both ways match up.)
So even before Fultz or Ball even come to Boston, the Celtics can already thank the Nets for helping them acquire a potential franchise cornerstone. And another one may be on the way in 2018.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Full article @ Four years later, Celtics reaping biggest benefits of Danny Ainge’s brilliant Garnett-Pierce coup
Source: GreenStreet Blog