On draft night four years ago, the Brooklyn Nets pulled the trigger on what many consider to be the worst trade in NBA history, a deal that produced ripple effects that will be felt by the franchise and the league for a generation. But in its initial iteration, the deal was far less catastrophic.
The deal the Nets originally worked out with the Boston Celtics would've seen them acquire Paul Pierce alone, while surrendering Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, and just one first-round draft pick, sources told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.
The Nets got greedy, though, and decided they wanted Kevin Garnett as well. So they added another unprotected first-rounder to pry Garnett loose, and then threw in a third to get the Celtics to absorb Gerald Wallace, whose salary needed to be sent out to match Garnett's.
Because teams aren't allowed to trade first-rounders in consecutive years, that meant the Nets gave up their 2014, 2016, and 2018 picks, and the Celtics still somehow managed to convince them to swap picks in 2017, which is why Boston owns the No. 1 pick (for now) in Thursday's draft. All so they could acquire Garnett, who was 37 at the time.
"The arrogance in the room was that we were going to roll, we were going to win these next couple of years," a former Nets staffer told Bondy. "Maybe not the championship, but we were going to win the next couple of years and have sustainable success. We were going to keep signing free agents. We were always going to draft between 20 and 30. So if we're going to swap with the Celtics, who gives a f---? That definitely was the thought."
Things obviously didn't work out that way for the Nets, who got just one season of Pierce and 96 games of Garnett, made the playoffs as a 6-seed and 8-seed in 2014 and 2015, respectively, bled money, and eventually decided to rebuild without any of their own picks. Far from drafting between 20 and 30, they gave the Celtics the 17th pick in 2014, the third pick last year, and the top pick this year, with next year's pick still owed without protections.
"We knew what these picks could eventually turn out to be because you really didn't have much of a safety net here," Bobby Marks, the Nets' assistant GM at the time, told Bondy.
"So we needed everything to align right. And then things went wrong, and the plan wasn't seen through."