Five years after bringing the team banner No. 17, the Boston Celtics traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets in 2013. This trade was done to officially begin their post-“Big Three” rebuild as Ray Allen left Boston in free agency in 2012. In the same offseason, head coach Doc Rivers left to coach the Los Angeles Clippers. Though it made sense, trading two long-time fan favorites to a division rival was a tough pill to swallow at the time. Seeing Pierce wearing another NBA team’s jersey was a sight most Boston Celtics fans were not prepared to see. However, the Celtics got a plethora of draft picks in the trade. As tough as it was, moving on from Pierce and Garnett is still paying dividends for the Boston Celtics, even over a decade later.
Boston Celtics Trade Review #11: The Brooklyn Nets 2013 Trade
Full Trade Details
Boston Celtics receive: Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, a 2014 first-round pick (later became James Young), a 2016 first-round pick (later became Jaylen Brown), a 2017 first-round pick (later became Markelle Fultz), and a 2018 first-round pick (later became Collin Sexton)
Brooklyn Nets receive: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, D.J. White, a 2017 first-round pick (later became Kyle Kuzma) and a 2017 second-round pick (later became Sasha Vezenkov)
The Celtics Needed to Trade Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce
In the 2012-13 season, the Celtics finished with a 41-40 record. During the playoffs, they lost to the New York Knicks in six games in the first round. After Allen left to join the Miami Heat the year prior, it was easy to predict that Pierce and Garnett were on their way out as well. After winning the NBA Finals in 2008, the Celtics had yet to win another title. The closest they came was in 2010 when the team lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games. At the time, Garnett and Pierce were 37 and 35 years old, respectively. The Celtics were prepared to usher in a new era, led by Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green. In order for this to happen, the team needed to commit to a rebuild and move on from the remaining duo of the “Big Three.”
Why the Nets Acquired Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce
While the Celtics were headed towards a rebuild, the Nets were hoping to cash in on a chance to win a championship. In 2013, the Nets made it to the postseason for the first time since 2007 with a 49-33 record. This was in large part due to their offseason acquisition of Joe Johnson to pair with Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. Plus, the team had just hired NBA legend Jason Kidd to be their next head coach.
The Nets were looking like a serious contender in the Eastern Conference and wanted to make a splash that can give them an extra push right away. Enter Garnett and Pierce, and the Nets further have the makings of a championship roster. Sure, both players were far from their peaks, but giving them an opportunity to play a smaller role than they were accustomed to, in theory, could help them maximize what they still had left in the tank.
How Did the Celtics Perform Post-Garnett and Pierce?
The Celtics missed the playoffs in 2014 for the first time since 2007–the season before the team acquired Garnett and Allen. At 25-57, the Celtics ended the 2013-14 season with the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference. This was Brad Stevens’ first year as the team’s head coach. On the season, Green was the team’s leading scorer, averaging 16.9 points per game. The Boston Celtics eventually landed the sixth pick in the 2014 NBA draft and selected Marcus Smart out of Oklahoma State.
The Celtics traded Bogans to the Cleveland Cavaliers after six games with the team. The then 33-year-old averaged 2 points per game with the Celtics and did not play in the league again after he was traded.
Originally traded by the Celtics on draft night in 2011, this move marked his return to the franchise. However, Brooks’ Celtics playing career only lasted 10 games. The Celtics traded the Providence alum to the Golden State Warriors as part of a three-team trade that also involved the Miami Heat.
Humphries spent the entire 2013-14 season with the Celtics and started 30 games for the team. In 69 total games, Humphries averaged 8.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1 assist per game. During the 2014 offseason, the Celtics shipped Humphries out to the Washington Wizards.
Like Brooks, Joseph was returning to the team that selected him in the 2012 NBA draft. However, the Boston Celtics waived Joseph shortly after the trade, and the Syracuse product never suited up for another team.
Of all the players the Celtics directly received in this trade, Wallace was with Boston the longest. In 90 total games over the course of two seasons, Wallace averaged 3.7 points, 3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. The Celtics traded Wallace to the Warriors in July of 2015.
What About the Draft Picks the Celtics Got from the Nets?
Although none of the players the Celtics traded for made a big impact, the assets they received through draft picks are a different story (for the most part).
The first pick they got from the Nets was the 17th pick of the 2014 NBA draft, where the Celtics drafted James Young out of Kentucky. Young’s Celtics career was uneventful, averaging 2.3 points per game over three seasons. However, with the 2016 first-rounder they got, the Celtics drafted California’s Jaylen Brown. In seven full seasons with the Boston Celtics, Brown has been selected to two All-Star teams and one All-NBA Second team. This past offseason, Brown signed a supermax contract with the Celtics that makes him the richest player in league history.
In addition to the Brown selection being a hit for Boston, the Celtics flipped their 2017 first-round pick with the Philadelphia 76ers and drafted Jayson Tatum out of Duke. Tatum has been the best player from the 2017 draft and is a four-time All-Star. Additionally, Tatum has been selected to two All-NBA First teams and one All-NBA Third team.
As for the 2018 pick the Celtics received, Boston included it in a package that landed them All-NBA guard Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers. For the Cavaliers, they used this pick to draft Sexton out of Alabama.
In December 2013, the Nets lost Lopez, their All-Star center, to a foot injury for the remainder of the season. The Nets ended the 2013-14 season with a 44-38 record, a five-game decline from the year prior. Even so, the Nets defeated the Toronto Raptors in seven games in the first round. However, the team lost to the Heat in five games during the Eastern Conference Semifinals. This was Kidd’s only season as Brooklyn’s head coach.
In 75 games, including 68 starts, Pierce averaged 13.5 points over 28 minutes per game. These numbers were both then career-lows for the Kansas alum. In the offseason, Pierce signed a two-year contract with the Washington Wizards, ending his Nets stint after one season.
Garnett played and started 54 games during his first season with the Nets. In these games, the former MVP averaged 6.5 points and 6.6 rebounds over 20.5 minutes per game. Garnett was also with the team the following season but only played in 42 games before they traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves–the team that drafted him in 1995.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) September 24, 2016
Terry did not last a full season with the Nets and played just 35 games for the team. The 2011 NBA champion averaged 4.5 points over 16.3 minutes per game while with Brooklyn. In February 2014, the Nets traded Terry to the Sacramento Kings. However, Terry had a knee injury that caused him to miss the remainder of the 2013-14 season. Terry never suited up for the Kings.
White never played for the Nets as the team waived him shortly after the trade became official.
The Last Word
Losing two fan favorites at once can be tough. That said, the Boston Celtics trade Garnett and Pierce in this deal every single time.
Soon after this trade happened, the Nets became the laughing stock of the NBA. From 2015-2019, the Nets were regularly among the worst teams in the league. On the flip side, the Celtics were on their way up. In fact, in 2017, the Celtics were the No. 1 seed and simultaneously held the first overall pick in the 2017 draft thanks to the Nets.
And look what I leave behind for the Celts on my way out #1 pick😂👌🏾🙏🔥
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) May 17, 2017
Today, the Boston Celtics are almost two years removed from an NBA Finals appearance and are one of the favorites to win it all in 2024. Meanwhile, the Nets have become a solid team in the middle of the pack in the East. This is even after their failed “Big Three” of Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden.
Verdict: The Celtics run away as the winners of this trade, but things could have been worse for the Nets.