I didn't want to trade Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett, but it happened. I didn't want to trade Rajon Rondo, but it happened. Now that it has happened, we can look at what we got in return and try to build for the future.
I'm still of the opinion that we didn't get enough for Rondo, but I get that his value had been diminished by several circumstances. The bright side, however, is that Ainge did get pretty good potential value for Pierce and KG. Actually, that might be too much understatement. He might have gotten the steal of the century if things play out a certain way.
Let's think about the Nets current situation and how it might play out over the next few years. (This was a topic on the B.S. Report with Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe, so forgive me if I borrow some of their thought threads.)
Right now the Nets are in the 8th seed but that doesn't mean much because the Hawks have the right to swap picks with them, so the only help they'll get in the draft is based on where Atlanta falls in the standings (they are currently 2nd in the East and 4th overall). So basically it is a longshot that they'll get a difference maker through the draft this year.
The current Big 3 of Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson are getting paid super-team dollars and getting lottery level results. So it is no surprise that the Nets management is reportedly willing to trade any and all of them to start getting back on track. But that's easier said than done. Nobody wants those contracts and even if they were willing to accept them, they'd want more sweeteners to make the deal happen.
The Nets don't have any draft picks left to offer and they don't even have a lot of great young pieces either. But what they do have, might have to be offered up in order to get rid of their contracts.
Brooklyn and Sacramento have been engaged in trade talks for weeks, with the Kings reportedly refusing to budge off a demand that the 24-year-old center be included ... and the Nets being just as adamant that won't trade him. Lichtenstein thinks Plumlee should not be seen as "untouchable," that if you want to move and really rebuild, you have to be willing to give up something. "You see," Lichtenstein writes, "these teams don’t want the Nets’ brittle, overpriced and underachieving anvils. Not without the Nets sweetening the pot to include their younger assets. "Like Plumlee."
You see, without the draft to build with, the Nets are confined to trades and free agency. They don't have a lot of value to trade, so the best they can hope for is clearing the books as quickly as possible and start paying (too much) to free agents to come to Brooklyn. If they can't shuffle off their Big 3 for expiring contracts then they are stuck looking to the summer of 2016 to free up some space.
Even if they are able to pawn their overpaid players off onto other teams and free up some space this year or in the offseason, they aren't going to be instant contenders. They'll be rebuilding on the fly, which might be enough to maintain their position at the back half of the Eastern Conference "playoff race" but is more likely to plunge them further into lottery land.
All of which brings us back to the Celtics picks. We've already got James Young and next year we'll have their pick in what could be their lowest position in years. After that, we'll still have the right to swap picks in 2017 and still be owed another pick in 2018. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.
To wit, Paul Pierce could eventually be an assistant GM or coach advising Danny Ainge on who to draft with the picks that were used to acquire him.
With all of this said, a couple of caveats.
First, there's no guarantee that the Nets actually will sell off their pieces and go into salary-slashing mode. They could simply bank on their aging stars to keep them mildly afloat in the weak Eastern Conference. Biding their time and getting just enough wins to keep these picks out of the lottery. So there's that.
Next, even if we have good-to-great picks, you eventually have to take all these assets and turn them into a winning basketball team. We already have a lot of pretty-good young players on the roster and adding more guys that are 3 years away from being big impact guys isn't exactly a recipe for a quick turnaround.
Still, it doesn't matter if the rebuild is going to last months or years. Either way you have to have assets to make it work and at least they've got that going for them. Which is nice.