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Nets pick key to Boston - Cleveland trade

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Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Maybe Danny Ainge doesn’t think the Nets will be that bad next season.

The 2018 Nets first rounder, the last payment in the ill-fated trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, was shipped off to Cleveland Tuesday alongside Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic and Jae Crowder. Kyrie Irving, the All-NBA point guard who wanted out of Cleveland, is now a Celtic.

Ainge had been reluctant to trade away any of his draft hoard from the 2013, but the Cavaliers apparently demanded the Nets unprotected first in the talent-rich 2018 NBA Draft. (The Celtics also control the Lakers pick next year, but it's protected 2-to-5.)

As Celtics Blog wrote...

The sticking point of this trade was the inclusion of the Nets pick without any protection. As negotiations escalated Tuesday night in a race to the finish, the pick was the lynchpin.

Could Ainge believe an improving Nets team might not get him another top three pick? No one has said —yet. But Celtics Blog acknowledged that the moves the Nets made this off-season could have been a factor...

The grip on the Nets pick got a little looser when Nets GM Sean Marks made a series of trades to bolster his roster...

if the Nets do improve (dramatically), the pick will not be as valuable as Boston fans and others, including the Cavs, think it could be.

Irving is the critical piece. Last season, he averaged 25.9 points and 5.9 assists, while shooting 47/40/90.

In the past four years, Irving has been an NBA champion and two-time runner-up, a four-time All-Star, an Olympic and FIBA World Cup champion, winning the MVP of the 2014 World Cup. He’s 25 years old.

What does this mean for the Nets, other than not having Celtics fans relish each loss?

The Nets reportedly have been waiting to see if they could play a helpful role in either an Irving or Carmelo Anthony trade. They have $5+ million in cap space and still haven't renounced their rights to Randy Foye, who could be used in a sign-and-trade.

Absent that, they're expected to sign a big man, but probably to a partial guarantee. The Nets could also retain their trade assets through the February deadline.