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Grading Celtics-Nets deal for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce (left) and Kevin Garnett are headed to Brooklyn. Paul Pierce (left) and Kevin Garnett are headed to Brooklyn. (Cameron Browne/Getty Images)

The Celtics and Nets agreed to swing a blockbuster deal on draft night that will go official once free agency opens in July. How did each side fare?

Boston Celtics -- Grade: B

Outgoing: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry

Incoming: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Reggie Evans, Keith Bogans, three first-round picks, player(s) to be named later (UPDATE: MarShon Brooks is reportedly headed to Boston, while Evans is not part of the deal.)

There's so much going on with this trade from Boston's side. This is one of the tougher moves to evaluate in recent years because of all those external factors.

Quickly: It's an excellent send-off to two valued players, Pierce and Garnett, who get to continue playing meaningful basketball at a point in their career where that's all that matters. It's a major symbolic shift in approach for a team that has hung on, and hung on, and hung on for two or three years longer than some expected. It's a gut punch to fans so soon after Doc Rivers' own emotional departure.

Touchy-feely issues aside, Danny Ainge made a bold play for pure assets in the form of the three first-round picks. The league's rules preventing consecutive draft picks from getting traded is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the more picks over the next one-to-two years the better for the Celtics, who will likely be really, really bad next season. On the other, stretching out the time frame on the pick transfers opens up the possibility that Brooklyn bottoms out -- or at least takes a step back -- at some point, making the picks more valuable.

Boil this whole monster trade down and it essentially amounts to Boston's paying the difference between Wallace's future salary ($30 million) minus Terry's future salary ($10 million) for the three first-round picks. That's pretty expensive, even if we give Ainge some credit for getting Pierce out of town without buying him out or using the amnesty clause. That difference in cost prevents this deal from being a total home run, but Ainge can fix that if he can find a way to flip Humphries' expiring deal or Wallace -- who doesn't make much sense on a bad, rebuilding roster -- at some point (any point!) down the road.

The last key, hidden benefit to mention here is a counterintuitive one: This trade is an efficient way to make Boston really bad next season. Team executives talk all of the time about avoiding the treadmill of mediocrity, and that's exactly where the Celtics were headed in 2013-14 if they brought back Pierce and Garnett and waited patiently on Rajon Rondo, who is recovering from knee surgery. Much like in 2007, when Boston won just 24 games before the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant draft, this is a good time to be bad. Encouraging Rondo to take his sweet time rehabbing will likely be enough to make a bottom-six record a reality. Should that happen, the Celtics would be in a prime spot to add a franchise-changing building block in what is expected to be a strong 2014 draft. And if they somehow land Andrew Wiggins? It would be worth paying Wallace three times what he's set to make.

It's worth noting that this is a "B" with a big TBD attached to it, pending the possibility of a future Wallace deal and/or striking gold in the 2014 lottery.

Keep reading for Brooklyn's grade.

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Brooklyn Nets -- Grade: B+

Incoming: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry

Outgoing: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Reggie Evans, Keith Bogans, three first-round picks, player(s) to be named later (UPDATE: MarShon Brooks is reportedly headed to Boston, while Evans is not part of the deal.)

Many writers opposed the opulent moves that Brooklyn made last summer, particularly its trade for Joe Johnson and the re-signing of Wallace. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov continues to make roster moves in a manner that demands evaluation by its own standard. Decrying the outrageous sums of money and luxury tax implications is almost always important; with the Russian billionaire, though, it winds up just being a lot of hot air. It's his money, he's spending it inefficiently, he seems intelligent enough to realize he's spending it inefficiently and life moves on.

With that in mind, this trade takes Brooklyn from being neck deep to fully submerged in its pool of financial commitments for next season. The Nets' projected starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Brook Lopez will cost more than $80 million in 2013-14, well over the luxury tax line by the time they start paying any of their reserve players. This approach is a major gamble on good health for Pierce and Garnett. If one or both of those guys isn't close to 100 percent during the playoffs, this whole plan falls to pieces rapidly. Brooklyn's new coach, Jason Kidd, a 40-year-old player last season, should hopefully have a firm grasp on how important it is to keep his oldest vets healthy for the postseason run.

The potential payoff is a legitimage spot on the short list of teams -- Indiana, Chicago, New York -- that could give Miami a run in the East next season. The Nets were clearly on the outside of that group before this agreement, and they likely still trail Indiana and Chicago in that pecking order, but their position is improved. The cost of three first-round picks could prove to be anywhere from incredible to inconsequential, depending on how the Williams/Johnson/Lopez core holds up. Should this year's experiment fail, at least Brooklyn got out of the extra years of Wallace's terrible contract, Pierce comes off the books and there's always the possibility that Garnett decides to retire. In other words, the trade crimps the Nets hard in the short term but doesn't really worsen their already bleak long-term financial outlook.

One interesting wrinkle to track: Which veterans will the Nets pick up on minimum deals in free agency with the assumed magnetic appeal that comes with their improved shot at contending? Add a couple of reliable, savvy reserves on the cheap to accompany this star-studded starting lineup and this will look even better.
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