Which teams does Kevin Garnett put over the top? Breaking down potential KG trades
I have known KG's birthday for as long as I can remember, because I share the same one. When I was a kid I can remember looking up which famous people shared the same birthday as me, and seeing KG's name. I was probably 10 or 11 at the time, and I can remember wishing that Garnett would someday join the Celtics, because it would be pretty cool to have the same birthday as one of the C's best players.
About a decade later, it happened, and I was right, it is pretty cool. Not so much for the whole birthday factor, but because KG is the absolute perfect player to root for. An efficient offensive force that doubles as one of the best defenders the game has ever seen, and has not taken a play off in his 18 year career. Garnett was gifted with amazing skill, but it's his competitive spirit and passion for the game that have turned him into one of the greatest players of all time.
Another remarkable part of KG's make-up is his incredible loyalty. First in Minnesota, and now, in Boston. Long after pundits are yelling for Garnett to go, he believes it's time to stay, and help out his organization. To say it's admirable would be an understatement.
However, it is also complicating the Celtics off-season. If Boston is really ready to go all-in on a rebuild, keeping Garnett does not make sense. After all, he is 37 (today) and while he's still a very good player at the moment, he has too many miles on his tires to stick around for an entire rebuilding process. For the first time since acquiring him six years ago, parting ways with KG is a realistic possibility, a possibility clouded by his no-trade clause, and unbelievable loyalty.
At the moment, all signs point to KG only accepting a deal to a Los Angeles based team (where he lives in the off-season), and only if Paul Pierce is no longer in green. But let's suspend reality for a bit and think about what teams could really use KG, should he be willing to waive his no trade. After all, 37 years old or not, KG's defensive prowess and leadership abilities could help push several teams over the top.
Here are the top five teams that Garnett would have the most profound effect on, and the possible trades that the teams could make (ranked by how realistic it is the teams could work something out, and KG would agree).
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
|Martin averaged 14 PPG for the Thunder this season|
Semi-Realistic trade - To be honest, there isn't much, which is why KG to OKC is only 5th. One possibility is a sign and trade for Kevin Martin (Celtics paying him $8 million a year) and Perry Jones (1 year, $1.1 million remaining with two additional option years), a player that Danny Ainge scouted last year out of Baylor for Garnett (2 years, $23.5 million).
Why Boston does it - The C's do this trade if they think Martin is a 15+ point per game player, and think he's worth allocating a significant chunk of salary to. If Pierce leaves, the team is going to need to fill that scoring void, something Martin can certainly do. Personally I'm not crazy about Martin, but none of OKC's other pieces work. Ibaka is too good and too young to be dealt for 1-2 seasons of Garnett, and Perkins is signed for 2 more seasons at $17.6 million, about 10 times what he's worth. Also, Perkins amnesty rights would be forfeited if he's dealt, so the C's couldn't just trade for him and then dump him for the cap space.
Why OKC does it - Oklahoma City does this if they do in fact decide to amnesty Perkins, and think that adding a defensive anchor/low post threat in KG is more valuable than Martin. A starting five of Westbrook/Sefolosha/Durant/Ibaka/Garnett is as good as any starting unit in basketball, and the Thunder could use their mid-level exception to bring in a 6th man. As a bonus, OKC would immediately transform into every person in Boston's 2nd favorite team (if they're not already).
How realistic is it? (Scale of 1-10) - 1, The Thunder just don't have any pieces that Boston would be interested in (besides the untouchables of course) and Garnett is extremely unlikely to head out to the heartland. Last I checked, OKC is a long ways from Malibu.
4. Brooklyn Nets
|Trading KG for this guy just doesn't seem right|
Semi-Realistic trade - Kris Humphries (1 year, $12 million remaining), Marshon Brooks (1 year, $2.3 million plus a team option for 2014-15), Mirza Teletovic (2 years, $6.6 million) and a 1st round pick for Garnett (2 years, $23.5 million) and Courtney Lee (3 years, $16.4 million)
Why Boston does it - The Celtics payroll would stay steady in 2013-14, but they would save $11 million in 2014-15 and $5.7 million in 2015-16 thanks to Brooklyn taking on Lee's money. The C's would also pick up a first round pick and an intriguing European lottery ticket in Teletovic. While Boston would be a worse team next year, they'd enter next summer with a roster of Rondo/Bradley/Green/Sullinger/Bass/Terry/Teletovic, plus 3 first round picks (two of their own plus one Brooklyn) and around $15-20 million in cap space. Not a terrible position to be in.
Why Brooklyn does it - Simple, Brooklyn has gone all in. They've pushed their chips to the center of the table with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez, and KG is the perfect power forward for this team. He wouldn't be counted on to score much, but instead anchor the defense and provide leadership to a team without any. Would Brooklyn become the favorites in the East with KG? Of course not. But I'd pencil them in at #2 behind Miami, and give them an outside shot at competing with LeBron and company if KG would green light the move. The problem is, he wouldn't.
How realistic is it? - 2, this trade would actually help both teams, but Garnett really doesn't seem like he'll waive the no trade to go to Brooklyn and play for a team who would be extreme underdogs to make the Finals.
3. Golden State Warriors
|Bogut will be a free agent after the 2014 season|
Semi-Realistic trade - Andrew Bogut (1 year, $14.2 million) and Festus Ezeli (1 year, $1.1 million plus two option years) for Garnett (2 years, $23.5 million)
Why Boston does it - The C's would bump their salary cap number by $4 million next year, but open up $10.5 million worth of space in 2014-15. They would also get a one year look at Bogut, the former #1 overall pick who can't seem to stay healthy, and be able to determine if he's worth a deal following the season. Just like the above situation, Boston would enter next off-season with a ton of cap space, and a good young core. They's also get a re-do on their ill-fated selection of Fab Melo over Ezeli in last year's draft, adding a young big man with rebounding chops.
Why Golden State does it - Defensive identity. Bogut provided some when he was actually able to stay on the floor, but serious elbow and ankle injuries have made him a far bigger injury risk than KG, despite the fact that he's nine years younger. Garnett gives them a defensive backbone, and a solid complement to the offensively gifted David Lee down low. Golden State nearly advanced to the Conference Finals this season with Lee missing the majority of the playoffs. In this scenario G-State is able to upgrade on Bogut without giving up any other assets, and build on their breakout season.
How realistic is it? - 4, Oakland is a hell of a lot closer to LA than either Oklahoma City or Brooklyn, but is it close enough? One thing's for sure, Golden State has the right combination of expiring contracts (Bogut or Biedrins) and young talent to appease Boston.
2. Denver Nuggets
|The day the NBA adds a 2nd hoop, McGee will rise|
Semi-Realistic trade - JaVale McGee (3 years, $32 million) for Garnett (2 years, $23.5 million) OR Kosta Koufos (1 year, $3 million plus an option year), Anthony Randolph (2 years, $3.5 million) and Corey Brewer (sign and trade, $5 million per season) for KG
Why Boston does it - Two different deals here, the first, McGee for Garnett works on the surface as the C's get a 25 year old big man with immense talent. However McGee is more known for his time on Shaq'tin a Fool than his play on the court (which is actually pretty good), and a KG-McGee deal would be a huge loss in terms of basketball IQ. Which is why I included the 2nd deal, in which Boston gets Koufos (8 PPG, 6.9 RPG in 2012-13), the rights to Brewer (who would back-up Jeff Green and provide much needed defense on the wing) and Randolph (salary throw in). Both Koufos and Brewer are young assets to add to the core, and together would cost about $8 million per year, or about $4 million less than KG.
Why Denver does it - Koufos is a good young center, and a high price to pay for a 37 year old, but if any team can afford to give up a young big man, it's Denver. They have McGee and Kenneth Faried on the roster as well, and the one thing their dynamic roster is missing is a big man who can stretch the defense and serve as a defensive lynchpin. Garnett does both. Of course Garnett doesn't fit in as well with Denver's run-and-gun style, but come playoff time, the game slows down. Something the Nuggets and their sluggish half court offense know all to well by this point. KG transforms the Nuggets into championship contenders.
How realistic is it? - 5, Ok now we're getting further from Malibu again, but the Nuggets are a perfect trade partner for the C's with their excess of young bigs. Throw in the fact that Denver's roster is one player away, and this may be the one team KG breaks his "LA only" clause for.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
|Months later, the Clippers are still the best fit for KG|
Semi-Realistic trade - DeAndre Jordan (2 years, $22.4 million) and Eric Bledsoe (1 year, $2.6 million) for Garnett (2 years, $23.5 million)
Why Boston does it - We meet again, old friend. In this scenario Boston brings in an electric young guard that can either be used in as Rondo's replacement if the C's look into trading him, traded to a 3rd team to acquire more assets, or plugged in at shooting guard (with Bradley shifting to the 1st guard off the bench role). Bledsoe improved greatly in his 3rd season in the NBA this year, and his elite defensive abilities and improving offensive skill would be a fantastic get for an aging KG. Jordan is a true center that runs the floor well (Rondo to Jordan alley oops would be quite fun) and is an adequate defender and rebounder. Two good players under the age of 26 for one 37 year old? Can't say no to that, can you?
Why Los Angeles does it - Well for one, they already tried to. Garnett is not only a great defensive player and leader, but he's on Chris Paul's "to get" list. Paul pushed hard for KG at the deadline this year, and with the Clippers pulling out all the stops to retain CP3, expect them to do whatever it is he wants this summer. If that means making another run at Garnett, than that's what will happen.
How realistic is it? - 7, If Pierce does in fact leave this summer, the door really opens for this deal to get done. KG would no longer have his good friend tying him to Boston, and he could go to LA and finish out his career for a championship contender. The Clippers have been the leaders in the clubhouse to acquire Garnett's services all throughout the season, so it's no surprise to see them at the top of this list.
Of course Garnett's loyalty could win out again. But back in 2007, the Celtics acquisition of Ray Allen was the tipping point in KG waiving his no trade and heading to Boston, and maybe this time Pierce's departure would do the same thing.
One thing's for sure, if we've truly seen the last of Garnett in Boston — none of us will ever forget how hard he played, and how much pride he took in wearing the uniform.
Happy birthday KG, whatever ends up happening, you're the best. There's no athlete I'd rather share a birthday with.
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