Throwback transactions: The trade that changed Brooklyn forever

Published August 20, 2022, 10:00 AMJon Carlos Rodriguez

The Nets had high aspirations after acquiring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the 2013 offseason. But things didn’t pan out the way they had hoped.

Artwork by Melvin Rodas | Photos from Getty Images

The setup

The Brooklyn Nets were looking fresh in 2013. The franchise had just recently said bye-bye to the blue and red threads and changed addresses from New Jersey to New York. The new white and black uniforms were cool, and the home at the Barclays Center was sleek.

They didn’t look bad basketball-wise, either. Despite having only one All-Star in Brook Lopez, the 2012-2013 Nets won 49 games and finished fourth in the East. Sure, they lost in the first round to the Chicago Bulls, but at least they got to seven games versus an extra motivated Derrick Rose-less Bulls team. 

Then, something happened in the offseason of 2013 that would forever change the franchise’s future–and the collective reaction whenever we hear the words “Nets’ first-round pick.”

The trade

It looked good on paper. You got future Hall of Famers and champions in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. You got a backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Brook Lopez was the man in the middle. Jason Kidd was calling the shots. It even looked better in photos. 

This is what the Nets were rolling with at the start of the 2013-2014 season. To get there, all they had to do was part with Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, and Keith Bogans. They got KG, Pierce, Jason Terry, and DJ White from the Boston Celtics. This would’ve been a fine exchange, except it wasn’t. 

Zoom closer and in fine print were the three first-round picks and a pick swap that the Nets gave up to Boston (more on that later). Zoom even closer and squint a bit and you’d see that Garnett (then 37 years old), Pierce (then 36), and Terry (also 36) weren’t looking the way they did years prior. The Big Ticket had a bit of damage and fade. The Truth had lost meaning. The Jet sputtered. Among the three, it was Pierce who was still able to contribute double-digit scoring, but far off from his numbers when he was a Boston Celtic.

The Nets pretty much squandered its future to get this new core, yet the heavy lifting still fell into the hands of Lopez, Williams, Johnson, and–to a certain extent–Andray Blatche. They were the ones who carried Brooklyn to the postseason, where they would eventually lose in the second round to the Miami Heat.

The aftermath

The playoff loss to the Heat might have stung a bit, but what was truly crippling to the franchise were the events that occurred long after that. 

Pierce went to the Washington Wizards the following season, effectively ending his legendary partnership with Garnett. Then in 2016, one of the first-round picks that the Nets gave away stabbed them in the heart. That pick became Jaylen Brown. The year after that, the basketball gods twisted the knife in the form of another first-round pick that turned out to be Jayson Tatum.

Garnett and Pierce have since retired, never quite making an impact in Brooklyn despite the franchise going all in to acquire them. Those first-round picks will never come back. Brooklyn managed to get back on its feet and at one point re-energized the franchise with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden–along with the star power promise of a championship. 

In the 2021 playoffs, however, the Tatum- and Brown-led Celtics swept the Nets in the first round despite having Durant and Irving on the floor. The aftermath? It’s safe to say the 2013 trade is still hurting the Nets to this day.