The Celtics still have one more unprotected first round draft pick coming their way from the Nets in 2018, but the odds of that pick landing at No. 1 again took a hit earlier this week after Brooklyn acquired Blazers guard Allen Crabbe for forward Andrew Nicholson on Tuesday.
The swap was based around two players on inflated contracts. Crabbe took advantage of the crazy money being thrown around last offseason to get a four-year $75 million offer sheet from the Nets in restricted free agency. The Blazers matched, but quickly regretted that decision after stocking up their roster with several other players (Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard) on bloated deals. The team regressed last year and was set to pay a hefty luxury tax bill next year for a mediocre squad, so Crabbe’s deal was dumped for Nicholson.
Nicholson’s contract is terrible for his production as well but he makes an average of $6.6 million for each of the next two seasons, which is far easier to swallow for Portland than the $19.3 million that Crabbe is making.
For the Nets, acquiring Crabbe is a savvy move when you consider the circumstances. He’s overpaid, but he’s only really costing them $12.7 million per year, when you factor in that Nicholson’s useless contract was shed in the deal. Crabbe is just 25-years-old, is one of the top 3-point shooters in the league (44.4 percent for 2016-17) and will have a chance for a far bigger role in Brooklyn than he ever did alongside Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in Portland. Crabbe only averaged 10.7 points per game in Portland but that was in limited minutes off the bench. He’ll do much more in a featured in role in Brooklyn.
Crabbe should also provide a major boost to what was one of the worst offenses in the league last year (28th in offensive rating). The Nets also ranked 26th in three-point shooting (33.8 percent), and 6-foot-6 Cal product will provide some help in that department as well, along with D’Angelo Russell.
All of this should matter to Celtics fans because the Nets are starting to look like a competent team. Brooklyn GM Sean Marks has stayed patient this offseason with his spending, but is still managing to find talent without having much in the way of assets. He cashed out early on Brook Lopez after the big man managed to stay healthy for a full season and that helped him acquire a former No. 2 overall pick two years into his career. Russell, Jeremy Lin, Sean Kilpatrick, Caris LaVert and Crabbe is a respectable backcourt rotation for coach Kenny Atkinson to manage. If DeMarre Carroll and/or Timofey Mozgov bounce back at all from injury-laden lackluster seasons, I could actually see this Nets team clawing their way close to the 30-win mark next year, especially since so many other teams in the East have taken a step back this offseason.
Make no mistake, this Nets team will still be bad. However, unlike last year, there may be more talent here on paper than a few other teams around the league. It’s debatable whether they have a better roster than the Lakers, Magic, Pacers or Bulls, but I’d definitely take them over the Hawks. If things turn the right way for them, they’ll drop out of the top five worst teams in the league and that’s bad news for one of Boston’s key assets for 2018.
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