With the holidays just around the corner, it’s a time of giving, and the Brooklyn Nets are feeling very generous this season.
Their Atlantic Division rivals, the Boston Celtics, have their minds set on improving (no longer “tanking”). Ask Danny Ainge or Brad Stevens, they’ll both tell you the same thing. Something along the lines of, “Well, we’re just trying to improve and win as many ball games as we can.” This is no Philly style rebuild.
After finishing tied for the fourth-worst record in the NBA in 2013-14 during Stevens’ first season on the sidelines, the C’s drafted Marcus Smart and battled their way to a playoff spot last year. After using two more first-round picks, and bringing in veterans like David Lee and Amir Johnson this past offseason, expectations (at least internally) are even higher.
So far, it’s been more mediocracy for the 3-4 Celtics, though. They could very well make the playoffs, which would be another cool accomplishment, but they’d likely get bounced in the first-round and hold a middle of the pack draft pick. The Celts could also easily miss the postseason, which would sting a bit, and probably still only leave them with a slightly better middle of the pack draft pick.
It’s a tough situation to get out of without some major help. Fortunately for the C’s, they’ve got a serious get out of jail free card in their pocket.
Danny Ainge’s 2013 fleecing of the Nets (in which Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were shipped to Brooklyn) left Boston with three unprotected first-rounders. One of them belongs to this season’s Nets squad, who won their first game on Wednesday to improve to 1-7.
Losing The Truth and KG left sentimental scars, but it’s all about to pay off for Boston.
1-7 puts the Nets in a three-way tie for the second worst record in the NBA, but this Brooklyn team is expected to compete for the league’s worst record throughout the season (despite having no incentive to do so). This pick represents the big piece that Boston has been looking for in its rebuild.
Ainge could sit back and see where the pick lands, but that outcome has been very cruel to Boston in the past (’96, ’97, ’07, ’14). Forget gambling on the lottery, this is the year the Celtics turn a silly lottery ping pong ball into a known quantity.
Ainge is smart enough to shop the pick when it’s value is highest, we just need to wait and see when it is. Sometime in the next few months the season will unfold, and teams will be shopping players. The Nets pick is exactly the type of return these teams will want for those players.
Whether it be DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento, or a name we aren’t even hearing about yet, this is the year Boston needs to strike while they have the ammunition to truly change the franchise.
Of course, Ainge can’t magically make players available on the trading block, but if and when names are mentioned in rumors, it’s likely Ainge is on the other end of the phone offering his most valuable chip in the eyes of others.
For now I’ll just leave you with a coupe quick ideas off the cuff. Keep in mind these trades would include Boston sending away Brooklyn’s 2016 first-round pick along with the players you see.
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