By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics already have one top-five draft pick on their roster thanks to the Brooklyn Nets, and more young elite talent could be coming Boston’s way again next summer after Brooklyn missed out on two of its top free agent targets this week.
Brooklyn’s offseason problems began when new GM Sean Marks agreed to four-year offer sheets with restricted free agent guards Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe. Both offers were worth over $50 million, in hopes that they wouldn’t be matched. But neither will be playing for Brooklyn next season after the Heat and Blazers, respectively, matched those deals for Johnson and Crabbe before the three-day deadline had expired.
The 21-win Nets understandably weren’t able to attract any top names in free agency this summer despite having significant salary cap space, so they targeted a pair of young promising players in Johnson and Crabbe to try to rebuild a depleted core. After missing out on both players though, there was a very shallow pool of talented free agents available on the market for Brooklyn, despite the fact the team still had over $35 million in salary cap space still available to use as recently as a week ago.
Over the past few days, Brooklyn has managed to fill up their roster with uninspiring holdovers from the free agent scrap heap, giving out one-year deals to the likes of point guard Grevis Vasquez, shooting guard Randy Foye, and power forwards Luis Scola and Anthony Bennett. All four project to be bench rotation players next season — at best.
The Celtics are surely pleased by these developments since they have the right to swap first round picks with the Nets in 2017. While Marks has added a pair of talented veteran free agents already in Jeremy Lin and Trevor Booker, those additions will merely offset the loss of power forward Thaddeus Young (who was traded away to the Indiana Pacers last month) and ex-starting point guard Jarrett Jack (released).
After a half dozen free agency signings, Brooklyn has 13 players under contract with an overall talent level among the worst in the league.
The Nets still have no incentive to lose games next season due to the pick swap, so Marks is clearly trying to do the best he can with the limited resources at his disposal. With a couple of spots left to fill and remaining cap space, Brooklyn could still land a player or two that could help, such as free agent center Tyler Zeller.
Ultimately, the good news for Boston is that no matter whom the Nets sign, it’s unlikely to lift their roster talent level above the bottom five teams in the NBA. That fact should only increase the value of Boston’s 2017 pick swap with Brooklyn as well as Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 first round pick, which the Celtics own the rights to.
Whether Danny Ainge wants to keep those selections or shop them around in the coming weeks as part of a trade for a key piece, this week’s developments will only give him more options to work with as he tries to build the Celtics into a contender.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.