Leave it to a storied franchise like Boston to upstage what was already panned as a weak draft by officially moving on from the organization's latest "Big Three" era.
It's been in the offing for nearly a year--starting with Ray Allen departing for rival Miami in free agency, the process speeding along with All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo's midseason ACL injury and more recently, Doc Rivers leaving to coach the Clippers--but with the Celtics trading future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, as well as veteran sixth man Jason Terry to Brooklyn, Boston basically entered its bid for the 2014 NBA Draft Andrew Wiggins-Jabari Parker-Julius Randle-Aaron Gordon sweepstakes.
In return, the Nets sent back veteran small forward Gerald Wallace, the expiring contract of backup power forward Kris Humphries, former Bulls guard Keith Bogans, youngsters Kris Joseph and MarShon Brooks and first-round picks in 2016 and 2018, in addition to a protected 2014 selection, which will likely be on the lower end of the first round.
The Celtics will hire a new coach soon, one to preside over the rebuilding of the franchise, as Rivers once did and wasn't willing to do again, which is completely understandable, especially if Boston was willing to let him leave for Los Angeles--where he'll coach All-Star power forward Blake Griffin and more than likely, free-agent floor general Chris Paul, for the expected title contender--after receiving compensation, instead of forcing him to either return or step down and be forced back into the broadcast booth until his contract expired.
[RELATED: Breaking down the Bulls' draft]
"You hate to see it and you certainly hate to see them go to Brooklyn," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau quipped Thursday at the Berto Center. "And Doc, of course, going to the Clippers, but that's the NBA."
"Constant change and you have to be ready to adapt, but I think what Paul Pierce did for that franchise and Kevin, I think it's for them," continued the former Celtics assistant and close friend of Rivers, a native of Maywood, Ill. "They have an opportunity to continue on. Good for the Celtics, where they can start with their rebuilding, and good for Doc."
Brooklyn, which lost to a severely depleted Bulls team in the first round of the playoffs, now has a starting lineup of former All-Stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in the backcourt, Pierce and Garnett (who waived his no-trade clause to make the deal happen) at the forwards and young All-Star center Brook Lopez, not to mention a massive luxury-tax bill that Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov obviously has no qualms about paying.
The Nets don't have a large championship window, not with Garnett and Pierce getting older before our eyes, but recently-retired player and new Brooklyn head coach has a formidable roster at his disposal, with veterans who were his peers just last month, as well as personal friends.
But as much star power as the Nets have before free agency even begins, it can't be said that their chances at dethroning the two-time defending-champion Heat are better than either the Bulls or Pacers in the Eastern Conference.
[MORE: Breaking down the first round of the NBA Draft]
The Celtics-Nets trade wasn't the only major swap made Thursday, as Philadelphia and new 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, despite not hiring a coach to replace Doug Collins yet, made a bold move, dealing young All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for sixth overall pick Nerlens Noel and a reportedly top-five protected 2014 first-round selection.
Noel inexplicably dropping to the No. 6 choice after being the prohibitive favorite to be the first pick in the draft was shocking, but the Pelicans pairing him with fellow Kentucky product Anthony Davis to form a potent defensive duo was a tantalizing image. However, for the Sixers to trade their best player for a raw center coming off an ACL injury, then drafting talented, but unproven floor general Michael Carter-Williams with the 11th pick signals that the organization is also in full rebuilding mode, will move on from disappointing center Andrew Bynum in free agency and is unconcerned about the immediate future, while positioning itself, like Boston, for a shot at one of the coveted top prospects in next year's draft.
The widely-held notion that New Orleans needed to draft a point guard after Greivis Vasquez' breakout year last season was puzzling, but Holiday is certainly an upgrade and now Vasquez can be flipped for another impactful contributor, presumably a small forward, or valuable asset, giving the Pelicans, with the talented Davis, stretch power forward Ryan Anderson and the prospect of shooting guard Eric Gordon either finally getting healthy or also getting traded, a much brighter, if not completely settled future.
Beyond the trades and first-round selections, there were also some intriguing second-round picks Thursday, reflecting the depth of prospects, if not overwhelming, franchise-changing talent available.
[RELATED: Bulls select Erik Murphy in second round]
Cleveland, in addition to shocking everybody by drafting Anthony Bennett first overall, picked up two solid wings in shooter Allen Crabbe from California and athletic Arizona State product Carrick Felix.
Other choices that could eventually pay off include:
- Houston drafting Murray State point guard Isaiah Canaan, who has a shot to make the roster and gives the Rockets added financial flexibility in their pursuit of free-agent center Dwight Howard
- The Pistons lucking into explosive North Texas forward Tony Mitchell
- Versatile San Diego State wing Jamaal Franklin dropping to Memphis and potentially providing an eventual replacement for Grizzlies free agent Tony Allen, if the Chicago native departs in free agency
- Milwaukee trading for South Dakota State point guard Nate Wolters, who gives the Bucks some insurance at backup point guard if their trio of veteran free agent guards, Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick, doesn't remain intact
- Denver acquiring Virginia Tech guard Erick Green, who led the nation in scoring and should give the Nuggets much-needed perimeter-shooting assistance
- Dallas getting Ricky Ledo, who sat out at Providence, but has as much potential as any lottery pick, giving the Mavericks a young player with a high ceiling for the future
- Miami finagling Long Beach State swingman James Ennis, an explosive wing who fits the Heat's transition-oriented style
- Portland picking shot-blocking Kansas center Jeff Withey, which should help improve the Trail Blazers' porous interior defense and give them some post depth
- San Antonio selecting Ohio State scorer DeShaun Thomas, a limited all-around player, but one who Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich could one day find a role for.