Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers

The Whiteboard: Russell Westbrook trade connects back to Kevin Garnett and the Nets

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Left to linger long enough, ramifications spider-webbing away through the seasons, some NBA trades have a way of taking on a mythic quality. In my basketball lifetime, I’m not there’s a better example than the infamous trade between the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics on July 12, 2013. This is the one that sent Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, D.J. White and a 2017 second-round pick to the Nets, in exchange for Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, three future first-round picks and the rights to a pick swap.

The Nets’ championship dreams crumbled quickly and the general manager who helped construct the deal, Billy King, lost his position in 2016. That led to them bottoming out, moving through several coaches and eventually clearing the decks for the Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant signings that have set them on their current path.

The Celtics leveraged their new draft assets in a variety of ways, selecting James Young with the No. 17 pick in 2014 (ouch), Jaylen Brown with the No. 3 pick in 2016 (yay!), sending Cleveland the No. 8 pick in 2018, which became Collin Sexton, as part of a trade for Kyrie Irving (yikes) and flipping their swapped pick in 2017 to move down and get Jayson Tatum (yeehaw!) and another pick which they turned into Romeo Langford (meh). They also hired Brad Stevens immediately after this trade, and Stevens took over for Danny Ainge as president of basketball operations for the Celtics this summer.

Those are the rough outlines of the deal but if you pull enough strings you can still find its ramifications unspooling in major moves this offseason.

Russell Westbrook to the Lakers was possible because of the Celtics-Nets trade

Kyle Kuzma was one of the key pieces in facilitating the Russell Westbrook trade this summer, both because of the perceived value he offered the Wizards (however slight) and his salary adding to the pot as the Lakers’ tried to match Westbrook’s to make the deal work. Kuzma was taken with the No. 27 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. They received that pick from the Brooklyn Nets as part of a trade that sent D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn for Brook Lopez. And, of course, the pick originally belonged to the Celtics but this was the year they exercised their pick swap rights from the Garnett trade.

No Garnett trade, and there’s no pick swap, no D’Angelo Russell trade and no Kyle Kuzma in Los Angeles to eventually trade for Russell Westbrook.

The James Harden trade can be traced back to the Celtics-Nets trade

The Harden trade from the Rockets happened during last season but it was facilitated in small part by the original Celtics-Nets trade and it’s setting off another rippling set of chain reactions. Flipping back to 2015, the Nets traded a fading Kevin Garnett back to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Thad Young. Just over a year later, the Nets flipped Thad Young to the Pacers for Caris LeVert and a future second-round pick. LeVert, obviously, was a key piece of the four-team trade in January that brought Harden to the Nets (proving time is a flat circle). Among the offseason ripples from that deal we have:

  • Jarrett Allen ended up with the Cavaliers, where he signed a five-year, $100 million extension this summer.
  • Victor Oladipo went to Houston and was eventually traded again to Miami, where he resigned this summer on a one-year deal.
  • Instead of possibly staying with the Heat, Olynyk went to Houston in the subsequent Oladipo deal. Houston wasn’t interested in re-signing him and he inked a three-year, $37 million contract with the Pistons this summer.

In addition, the Rockets have three future first-round picks and three future pick-swaps from Brooklyn, a collection of assets similar to the ones the Nets sent the Celtics eight years ago and ones that are likely to each set off their own collection of ripples which will be felt for years to come.


Both the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls made bold acquisitions in free agency but may have moved in opposite directions this offseason.

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