When the Celtics traded Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, the whole world was shocked. It looked as though Boston was giving up all of their key players and would suffer greatly.
Nets Principal Owner Mikhail Prokhorov went as far as to boast about the trade.
“Today, the basketball gods smiled on the Nets. With the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, we have achieved a great balance on our roster between veteran stars and young talents. This team will be dazzling to watch, and tough to compete against.”
It seemed like an extremely lopsided move at the time, but the years have shown Celtics GM Danny Ainge to be correct in his maneuvering. The Nets went on to rent Pierce, Garnett and Terry for one year in 2014 where they lost to the Heat in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Celtics, on the other hand, were able to rebuild, and the arrival of Brad Stevens at head coach propelled them to a playoff appearance in 2015. Then, in 2017, they became a behemoth with the emergence of Isaiah Thomas as a superstar and took the first seed in the East. Unfortunately, they were stopped by Cleveland’s superteam in the Conference Finals.
In this offseason, the Celtics dumped a lot of the pieces surrounding Thomas to bring in phenom Gordon Hayward. Avery Bradley departed for the Detroit Pistons. Bradley has been one of Boston’s better defenders and an amazing role player for the team. He was even trusted with the last shot in game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals where he won the game on a made three pointer.
When Thomas went down in those Finals, Bradley shined brightest. Kelly Olynyk was a great hustle player with a decent shot. The Celtics counted on him to fight in the paint and rack up rebounds, which he did for years. Tyler Zeller, another bench player was waived. Was it all too much?
The Celtics now can trot out a lineup of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, Jae Crowder, and Jalen Brown. It’s not great and definitely doesn’t scream Championship, but they had to make a change after drubbing they received in the Conference Finals at the hands of the Cavs. One can only wonder if their issue was defensive and not offensive. Hopefully, Hayward carries more of the load to give Thomas more breaks, therefore making him more effective, but the likelihood is that their defensive issues in both the half-court and in transition still remain. The major issue is that they cannot stop the King from Akron.
Ainge has shown amazing foresight before. Perhaps the arrival of Jayson Tatum has left Ainge with an interest in developing the young player’s skill set by giving him lots of minutes. Hayward doesn’t seem like a strong enough player to jettison all the other talent, but Mr. Ainge has a number of tricks up his sleeve and for all we know, we could be crowning a new Eastern Conference Champ next year.