The infamous Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade with the Brooklyn Nets is the gift that keeps on giving for the Boston Celtics.
In 2013, the Celtics sent Pierce, Garnett, and Jason Terry to Brooklyn as the Nets tried to build a super-team to rival the Miami Heat. In exchange, along with some role players, the Celtics received the Nets' 2014, 2016, and 2018 first-round picks, with the right to swap picks in 2017.
That right to swap picks may now be the most valuable asset in the NBA as the trade deadline approaches on Thursday.
The Nets are a league-worst 9-47, likely to earn the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft. The Celtics are 37-20, second in the East, with assets to ship off. The right to swap picks may be their best chip.
On Tuesday, ESPN's Zach Lowe said on "The Lowe Post" podcast that he believes the Celtics would be willing to give up that pick in a trade for a superstar.
"When it's time to get serious, I think Boston will put the Nets' pick in, this year's Nets pick," Lowe said. "This year's is the most valuable... I think when push comes to shove and it's go time, Boston will put that pick in." Lowe added that they could put top-one or top-two protections on it, meaning if the pick were the first or second in the draft, it wouldn't transfer to another team.
The Celtics are rumored to be considering ways to upgrade their roster. Although they have a tight-knit, cohesive team and only trail the Cleveland Cavaliers by three games, many people believe they don't truly have enough talent to beat a LeBron James-led team. With several young players, valuable role players, and a surplus of draft picks, including the Nets', the Celtics could potentially make a blockbuster trade to acquire a superstar like Jimmy Butler or Paul George.
ESPN's Marc Stein, who was also on the podcast, said, "If Butler gets traded or if Paul George gets traded, that's when it's gonna happen. It's gonna happen in the last five to ten minutes."
Stein said on the podcast that one NBA executive told him that he believes George will end up on the Celtics before the deadline. Stein disagreed with the premise, but noted that such a deal is likely to come down right to the 3 p.m. deadline.
As Lowe debated in his column on Tuesday, adding Butler or George, while also losing some depth, may still not be enough to push the Celtics over the Cavs. If the Celtics agree with that thinking or simply decide they don't want to part with the Nets' pick, they still get to add, presumably, a top-three pick in the draft this June. They could look to free agency or other trades as means to improve without giving up the pick.
Either way, the Celtics are in comfortable position. Sure, they may not be able to contend for a championship yet. But they own an asset that could help land them a superstar before the trade deadline or one of the top picks in a deep and talented draft. The Nets, meanwhile, continue to suffer.
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