Evaluating the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets Trade

kevin-garnett-paul-pierceWe’re now over halfway through the 2013-2014 NBA season and there’s been quite a bit of time to analyze the Boston Celtics/Brooklyn Nets summer trade. As you may recall, Brooklyn practically sold their future by giving up three first round picks, and they dumped some veterans with large contracts. In return, the Nets got three players in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, whom they thought would put them among the league’s elite.

So who’s the clear winner in this deal? Before we provide a clear-cut answer to this question, let’s take a more in-depth look at what exactly each team has gotten out of the trade thus far.

Boston Celtics

Rather than try and make another run at a low playoff seed with aging superstars, Danny Ainge chose to start from scratch by getting rid of Pierce and Garnett. In doing so, he virtually guaranteed that Boston would be bad and that’s exactly what has happened, with the Celtics sitting at 15-32 and tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for last in the Atlantic Division.

But being bad this year isn’t such a terrible thing. After all, the 2014 NBA Draft is loaded with talent, and if Boston can grab a top-5 pick, it’d be huge. Speaking of the draft, this team will also be getting three extra first-round picks in the future, which is immensely helpful to the rebuilding effort.

The major downside on Boston’s part is that they had to absorb Gerald Wallace’s contract, which will see the overpaid forward get another $30 million. It’s not all bad, though, because they were able to dump Jason Terry’s $10 million contract on Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Nets

paul-pierce-1As we discussed in the beginning, the Nets made this trade in order to compete with the East’s top teams like Indiana and Miami. And they paid a heavy price for getting Piece and Garnett by giving up a lot of draft picks. So far, their reward is a 20-23 record, the current seventh seed, and a couple of solid starters. Not exactly what you give up your draft future for…

Piece is averaging 13.3 PPG on just 41.3% shooting. He’s also averaging 3.1 APG, but turning the ball over 2.4 times per game too. Garnett hasn’t exactly been a godsend either, scoring 6.9 PPG on 42% shooting. However, he has done some good work on the boards, averaging 6.9 RPG. Jason Terry has been a virtual non-factor, scoring 4.4 PPG and only hitting 37.4% of his shots from the field.

If this team was built to win a championship, something needs to change quickly. The Nets have already taken a huge hit with Brook Lopez sidelined for the remainder of the season with a broken foot. And if the playoffs were to start today, they wouldn’t even have first-found home court advantage.

The Trade Winner?

Neither team has escaped with an A+ from this trade. Of course, it’s still pretty early to tell how both teams will make out from the deal in the long-term. Boston is a very bad team right now, and how all of their draft picks pan out won’t be determined until after 2016. New Jersey is currently the seventh seed and could very well move up in the standings.

But if we have to pick a winner now, it’s definitely Boston. They’re set up well for the future with players like Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger. And they’ll likely add more promising young players over the next few years.

5 NBA Benchwarmers who are getting paid Big Bucks

Andris-biedrins-benchwarmerThe NBA’s minimum salary for rookies is almost $500,000, so every player in the league is making some nice money, regardless of whether they’re an 8-time All-Star or twelfth man. In regard to the latter, you normally expect the last man on the roster to be the lowest-paid player on the team. After all, the most energy that they normally exert during games is leaping off the bench to waive their towels when a teammate hits a big shot.

But the truth is that some twelfth men actually make some surprisingly high salaries. These benchwarmers can thank years of collective bargaining for this, with minimum contracts going over the $1 million mark for players who’ve been in the league at least five years. Old contracts that were made at a point when players were much better than their twelfth-man status also weigh heavily into this as well. Taking everything into account, let’s look at five NBA players who rarely see the court, yet make more money than some starters.

1. Andris Biedrins, Utah Jazz – $9 million

In the 2009 NBA season, Andris Biedrins had a career year where he scored 11.9 PPG, grabbed 11.2 RPG and had 1.5 BPG. Based on his numbers, the Latvian wonder seemed to be worth every penny of the 6-year, $54 million deal that he signed the previous summer. But then the injuries started… Biedrins’ 2010 season was derailed by groin and back problems along with criticisms by then-coach Don Nelson. Now on the Utah Jazz after several more injury-plagued seasons, he’s averaging 0.5 PPG and 2.8 RPG in the last year of his lucrative deal.

2. Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons – $8 million

charlie-villanueva-benchwarmerFor the first six years of his NBA career, Charlie Villanueva was a solid power foward who had a pretty good outside touch for a 6’11” guy. It was after his fourth year that Villanueva signed a $35 million deal, thanks in large part to the 16.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 34.5% three-point shooting that he averaged in 2009. Now in his ninth season, Villanueva’s production has declined considerably. He’s played in just 13 games so far, and in those games, he’s averaging 9.1 minutes. If there’s any silver lining here, it’s that the Connecticut product can still score, putting up 4.8 PPG in these limited minutes.

keith-bogans-benchwarmer3. Keith Bogans, Boston Celtics – $5 million

For a guy who was drafted late in the second round of the 2003 NBA Draft, it’s impressive that Keith Bogans has managed to stretch his marginal talent into an 11-year career. But that career seems to be coming to a close since he’s averaging just 2.0 PPG and 0.5 APG in six games for the Celtics this season. However, Bogans is still making some decent money from the deal he signed with the Brooklyn Nets a year ago.

4. Joel Anthony, Miami Heat/Boston Celtics – $3.8 million

Coming off a 2010 season where he played in 80 games and tallied 1.4 BPG, undersized joel-anthony-benchwarnercenter Joel Anthony signed a 5-year, $18 million deal with the Heat. Anthony continued to be an important reserve for Miami, until the 2012-13 season, when they brought in Chris Bosh. Since that time, he’s been an overpaid benchwarmer who only sees minutes when the game has gotten out of hand. Perhaps he might start getting back onto the court a little more now that he’s been traded to the Celtics.

5. Jannero Pargo, Charlotte Bobcats – $1.4 million

jannero-pargo-benchwarmerAfter several years where he was an important reserve for the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets, Jannero Pargo has been warming benches for the past two seasons. Pargo played on three different teams before finally looking like he’d found a home in Charlotte, where he averaged 8.4 PPG in 16.2 minutes a game. No such luck this year, as he’s only appeared in 11 contests, playing 5.5 MPG while backing up Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions. Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that Pargo found a way to get paid since he once landed a fairly nice one-year, $3.8 million contract with a Russian team.

Are the Brooklyn Nets bound to miss the Playoffs?

new-jersey-nets-miss-playoffsThis past offseason, the Brooklyn Nets made some huge free agent acquisitions to vault themselves among the NBA’s elite teams…or so it seemed. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov was pretty clear that he wanted to compete for a championship now, so GM Billy King went out and got Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko.

However, these moves were costly because the Nets gave up several draft picks, leaving them with just one draft selection between now and 2018. In addition to losing the picks, Brooklyn also has the highest payroll in the league at $102.2 million, along with an $87.2 million luxury tax – bringing their total to $187.4 million.

So with a third of the season now finished, what have they gotten for all of these expenditures? A 9-18 record, which is tied for third in the Atlantic Division. Things have been ugly beyond just the record too. Rookie head coach Jason Kidd seems in over his head, and he had a large role in super-assistant Lawrence Frank’s demotion. His locker room speeches are far from inspiring too, as you can see from the following gem that he delivered after the Nets’ blowout loss to the Indiana Pacers:

Well I think it is getting very close to just accepting losing. We are kind of getting comfortable with losing. And we got to make a stand with that because when things get tough, do we just give in and most of the time right now we do.

jason-kidd-new-jersey-coachKidd’s rough coaching introduction and King trading away Brooklyn’s future doesn’t even begin to cover everything that’s wrong here. The team’s early season MVP, Brook Lopez, is now sidelined with a broken foot. This means the team will have to replace 20.7 PPG, 6 RPG and 1.76 BPG. Brooklyn has also sorely missed an injured Andrei Kirilenko, who’s played just 57 minutes this year. His bargain-basement signing this offseason is what truly worried the defending champion Miami Heat. But there’s nothing to fear when Kirilenko can’t stay on the court.

Even those who have been on the court have underachieved. Pierce is scoring just 12.6 PPG and shooting 40.2% from the field. Nobody expected him to play like he did a decade ago. But Pierce is really struggling to fit in with his new team. Garnett is even more disappointing, averaging just 6.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG and shooting a dreadful 37.5% from the field. At 38 years old, you have to wonder if KG is now on a steep decline.

Joe Johnson (16.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG) and Deron Williams (12.5 PPG, 7.6 APG) have both been solid thus far. But these two alone aren’t capable of leading a team to the NBA title. So if they don’t get some help from the supporting cast soon, you have to wonder if this overly expensive team is headed for the draft lottery.

What’s sad is that, even if they do get a lottery pick, the selection will belong to the Atlanta Hawks (via Joe Johnson deal). So it basically looks like it’s postseason or bust for this team. Their best chance currently resides in passing some of their foes in the awful Atlantic Division. Toronto currently leads the Atlantic with an 11-15 record, while Boston holds the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed with a 12-17 record. Boston is 2 games ahead of New Jersey, while Toronto is 2.5 games ahead of them.

Assuming Brooklyn can’t overtake either of these teams and grab a playoff berth, this could mark one of the biggest disasters in NBA history. After all, who wants to pay $189.4 million for a lottery pick that you won’t get to use anyways?

NBA Power Rankings for March 24th, 2013

chris-bosh-miamiThe biggest story in the NBA remains Miami’s incredible win streak, which is the second best in NBA history. With 25 straight victories, the Heat need just eight more consecutive wins to tie the 1971-72 LA Lakers for the most ever. Miami’s success has overshadowed the fact that the Denver Nuggets have also played excellent with 15 consecutive wins. Thanks to their great run, Denver has climbed over several teams into the Western Conference’s third seed. You can check out how the rest of the league’s top clubs are doing below.

1. Miami Heat (54-14) – The question right now isn’t if the Miami Heat are the NBA’s best team, it’s if they can become the greatest team ever. Doing so will no doubt require topping the 33 straight wins by the Lakers and winning this year’s championship. As for the streak, the next four games are very winnable with Charlotte, Orlando (road), Chicago (road) and New Orleans (road) coming up. On March 25th, the Heat will face off against the Spurs in San Antonio. Assuming they can win the next four contests, this could be the deciding factor in their quest for greatness.

2. San Antonio Spurs (53-16) – San Antonio has certainly remained steady this season and have gone 8-2 in March. However, things look to get a bit hairier over the next five games because they face Houston (road), Denver, the Clippers, Miami and Memphis (road). If San Antonio can win three or four of these contests, they have a good shot at closing out the regular season as Western Conference champions. Greg Popovich has done a great job at keeping his players fresh this year because nobody plays more than 33 MPG. So watch out come playoff time!

ty-lawson3. Denver Nuggets (49-22) – For most of the season, Denver looked like a low playoff seed. However, they’ve now ripped off 15 straight wins and are looking to lock up home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The win streak hasn’t been an easy task either because the Nuggets have had to beat Oklahoma City (twice), the Clippers, the Lakers, Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Memphis along the way. Much like Miami and their hot streak, Denver will face the San Antonio roadblock on March 27th.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (51-19) – One could make an argument that the Thunder should be ranked ahead of Denver since they’ve consistently won all season – including going 7-3 over the past 10 contests. However, the three losses were against other top Western Conference teams in San Antonio, Memphis and Denver; the Nuggets loss was particularly bad since it was at home. With so many other West teams playing well to close out the season, it’ll be a challenge for Oklahoma City to make the NBA Finals again…but it’s still a realistic possibility.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (47-22) – Memphis doesn’t exactly feature explosive scoring since Zach Randolph leads the team with 15.8 PPG. However, this might be the best defensive club in the NBA since they’re tied with Indiana in holding opponents to a league-low 89.5 PPG. Marc Gasol (1.71 BPG) plays in a big part in this because he swats plenty of shots and alters others. Mike Conley (2.30 SPG) and Tony Allen (1.48 PPG) also do an incredible job of pressuring the ball and forcing teams to make bad decisions.

blake-griffin-clippers6. L.A. Clippers (48-22) – With other teams currently surging in the West, the Clippers have simply been playing above average. This being said, it’s tough to figure out where they fit in when the playoffs roll around. L.A. certainly has the fire power to win in the postseason with Blake Griffin (18.6 PPG), Chris Paul (16.8 PPG) and Jamal Crawford (16.8 PPG). Plus their defense is pretty stout too with the Clippers holding opponents to 94.2 PPG. But the challenge will be putting all of this together through a seven-game series.

7. New York Knicks (42-26) – New York has really been an enigma this year. They began the season with the league’s best record for a while. Then the Knicks started cutting in and out of losing streaks while, subsequently, falling down to the Eastern Conference’s three seed at one point. As of now, they’re riding a four-game winning streak and tied with Indiana for the East’s second seed. Both Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith have been huge since they’re averaging 28.7 PPG and 20.3 PPG over the past four games.

paul-george-pacers8. Indiana Pacers (43-27) – The Pacers are one of the more impressive teams this year when considering that their star, Danny Granger, has only played five games. Granger could be healthy for the playoffs; but if he’s not, Indiana should be fine with Paul George (17.7 PPG), David West (17.3 PPG) and George Hill (14.4 PPG) leading the scoring charge. Roy Hibbert (2.71 BPG) is also proving to be nearly impossible for opponents to shoot over.

9. Brooklyn Nets (40-29) – The Nets are desperately trying to hold onto the fourth seed in the East so they have first round home court advantage. They’re currently in the midst of an eight-game road trip, which should test this team’s mettle. Denver should especially be a tough contest because they’re on fire right now. One players that’s particularly interesting on this team is Reggie Evans, who’s averaging 10.2 RPG in just 23.6 MPG. He’s really been dominant on the boards lately after averaging 16.8 RPG in the past five contests.

10. Atlanta Hawks (39-31) – Atlanta moves back into our top 10 thanks to the demise of Chicago and mediocre play by Golden State over the past few weeks. This month started horribly for the Hawks when they dropped six out of seven games. But things have gotten much better lately with Atlanta winning five out of the last seven contests. The most impressive victories during this stretch include Milwaukee (twice), the Lakers and Brooklyn. Al Horford has definitely been a beast over the last five games with 19.0 PPG and 13.0 PPG.