A long, long time ago, when the Boston Celtics were the NBA’s worst team and the Oklahoma City Thunder were still the Seattle Supersonics, a trade occurred that would greatly change the fortunes of the two aforementioned teams.
Okay, it wasn’t quite a “long, long time ago,” but doesn’t it feel like ages have passed since the Seattle Supersonics packaged Ray Allen and a second-round draft pick (which became Glen Davis) for the #5 pick (Jeff Green), Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West?
Way back when (again, aka three years ago), there was talk of the Celtics trading Paul Pierce away, tanking an entire season for the chance to draft Greg Oden seemed like a great idea, and the Celtics relied upon Tony Allen for big-time production. I guess it’s a good thing times have changed.
In fact, that trade ended up working out perfectly for both teams. While the prospect of teaming Kevin Durant with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis seemed like a terrific opportunity, by the time Durant fully develops Allen will likely be on his way out of the league and Lewis will be co-authoring a tell-all book with Jose Canseco. (In case you didn’t know, I’m just kidding.) The Sonics… I mean,Thunder, are set up perfectly for the future, with young talent at just about every position. Seriously, think about this lineup once they all mature: Russell Westbrook at point guard, James Harden at shooting guard, Durant at small forward, Green at power forward, and… B.J. Mullens at center. (I told you, they have young talent at just about every position, not every position.)
The Thunder are exciting, fun to watch, athletic, talented, young and perfectly positioned for being a contender down the road. Plus, they aren’t even that bad now, with a 10-8 record and a surprisingly effective defense to go along with all the budding talent on offense.
And the Celtics? I could go on and on about how much better they are now than they were a few years ago, but I’ll instead remind you of what would have happened to the Celts had that trade never been made. If the C’s don’t make that trade, they don’t get Kevin Garnett because he didn’t want to come to a non-contender. Then, they would have either had to decide to trade their youngsters for another player (maybe Pau Gasol?) or to keep their youngsters and build around them Let’s say they chose to build around the youngsters, mostly because I can’t stand the thought of the Big Poodle in Celtics Green. If they did that, the C’s would have had a lineup the following season of Rajon Rondo, Delonte West, Paul Pierce, Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins, with Ryan Gomes, Tony Allen, Yi Jianlian (according to grumblings, would have been the Celtics fifth pick had they kept it), and Sebastian Telfair coming off the bench. You might think for a second that those guys could compete and win their share of games, but let me continue.
In all reality, playing with three highly professional future Hall-of-Famers every day has sped up the development of all the C’s youngsters. Do you think Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins would be nearly as good as they are now if they didn’t have the Big Three to show them the ropes? If the Big Three doesn’t come together, Rondo would probably have ended up being traded to some other team, after causing such a big headache for Head Coach X (Doc would have been canned after another bad season) that General Manager Y (Ainge would have been fired too, after another losing season and the embarrassment of drafting Yi Jianlian with the fifth pick in the draft) decided to give him away for almost nothing. Perk might still be useless and out of shape, because he didn’t have three guys to show him how hard you need to work to succeed in the NBA. Paul Pierce would either be so disgruntled with his poor teams that he’d be causing problems and destroying his legacy in Boston, or he’d be making All-NBA teams for some other organization after being traded himself. Al Jefferson has missed huge chunks of the last few seasons, and that would have meant Yi Jianlian (yes, THAT Yi Jianlian) would be relied on to be a starter for those chunks.
So would you rather have option #1) a misbehaved Rajon Rondo who hadn’t yet gotten a good work ethic, a fat and useless Kendrick Perkins, a disgruntled Paul Pierce, a terrible Yi Jianlian and a nutty Delonte West, or option #2: the current Celtics starting five? If you want to say the first option, you are very drunk, very high, or a combination of both, so I’ll first wait until you’re sober and then ask you again. If you continue to say option #1, I will first check you into a mental hospital, then I will send you this picture in the mail.
Looking back on that trade, it was a real rarity in the NBA: A trade that made sense for both teams.