Even with seemingly little room to maneuver this offseason, the Knicks and Nets have found ways to pull off big-time trades to upgrade their respective rosters in this young summer.
The Knicks found help for Carmelo Anthony by acquiring Andrea Bargnani from Toronto for a package of reserves and draft picks in a deal that was official Wednesday.
The bigger deal, made by the Nets, is expected to become official Friday and brings future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, plus Jason Terry, to Kings County. The Celtics reportedly will receive a bevy of players, headlined by Gerald Wallace, and three future first-round draft picks.
Neither team will play in a meaningful game — if you consider the regular-season opener a meaningful game — for nearly four months, but it’s hard not to envision where these teams stand in the pecking order of Big Apple basketball.
The Knicks finished five games in front of their Brooklyn rivals last season and advanced one round further in the playoffs. But at first glance, the Nets may have done enough to leapfrog the established Garden tenants.
Bargnani is a clear upgrade over Steve Novak, who went to the Raptors with Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson. Neither is much of a force on defense, but the former No. 1 pick’s offensive cache is miles deeper than that of Novak. The deal also opened up roster spots to add veterans willing to play on the cheap (Metta World Peace, perhaps?).
But let’s be real here: Even in the twilight of their careers, Garnett and Pierce make the Nets a championship contender in a way the Knicks were not last year, and are not right now. They led the Celtics to the playoffs last year even without All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, and now they’ll face less focus from defenses with Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson as the top three options on the team.
Most important is the toughness and championship experience the former Celtics stars bring to the Barclays. As good as Williams, Lopez and Johnson are individually, they seemed defeated at times during their opening-round, seven-game loss to the Bulls in the spring. That won’t happen with Garnett, Pierce or new coach Jason Kidd in tow.
There’s plenty of offseason left, and some of the most vital moves a team can make in today’s NBA landscape are the small signings to fill out the bench, but for now the Nets appear to have surpassed the Knicks on paper.