We have just entered the month of February and the rumor mill is heating up. There have been plenty of whispers about the Celtics’ front office exploring trade possibilities involving just about everyone on the roster from Paul Pierce to Brandon Bass.
One name that had not come up in any serious rumors was Kevin Garnett until yesterday when Sean Deveney of The Sporting News reported the Clippers had strong interest in Garnett and were offering a package including Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler. SB Nation’s Paul Flannery reported this morning that, unsurprisingly, the Celtics’ front office had no interest in that package.
With the trade deadline a little more than three weeks away, there are bound to be more rumors popping up involving Garnett, even though he has a full no trade clause. Knowing that, I have the feeling we should start discussing some questions around any Garnett rumor scenario such as:
–Is there a real possibility the Celtics would want to trade Garnett?
–Would KG let the Celtics trade him? And if so, just what would be fair value for Garnett on the open market?
These are all important questions that are worth exploring as we tackle the answer of what the realistic chances are of him being dealt.
After considering retirement over the summer, Garnett re-signed with the C’s to a three year, $36 million dollar deal in June. According to Sham Sports, the third-year of the deal is only partially guaranteed at $6 million dollars. All things considered, it’s a fair deal and pretty team friendly for the Celtics.
Garnett is still an elite defender and terrific mid-range shooter. His rebounding has taken a bit of an expected dip this year, but the intangibles Garnett brings to the game makes it a good value deal for the C’s (or any team for that matter.) Here’s Garnett talking about his decision to come back before this season.
“I don’t know how (Celtics president of basketball operations) Danny (Ainge) talked me into three years, but I’m enjoying my journey here. I know that sounds lame and kind of cheesy, but coming here and preparing, doing what I love, all those put together, is why I’m here.”
Garnett enjoys Boston and is fiercely loyal to his teammates and Doc Rivers. For that reason, when he decided to come back, he wanted to make sure it would only be in Boston and under his terms. That leads us to our next section.
THE NO-TRADE CLAUSE
Garnett is a man who likes consistency. He has a routine and he values playing in familiar surroundings. He’s also been around Boston long enough now to know Danny Ainge is always looking to deal, or at least trying to. Garnett didn’t want to have to worry about any of that. Using his bargaining position this summer, Garnett was able to get Ainge to insert the elusive no-trade clause in his new deal, one of the very few that exist in the NBA.
Challenging predicaments like the one the Celtics are in at the moment is why that no-trade clause was very important to KG. Thanks to injuries, the C’s have virtually no shot at competing for a title this year, which makes talented veterans like Pierce and Garnett very attractive pieces to contenders who think they are one piece away from making a title run.
Ainge has the freedom to explore all options with Pierce if he decides to deal him and starting building for the future. He does not have that luxury with Garnett, making any deals involving the power forward pretty pointless unless they have Garnett’s blessing. With that, we ask the pivotal question:
WOULD GARNETT WANT TO BE DEALT?
This is a tough thing to speculate on, since we have no real window into Garnett’s thought process. The easy answer is, of course not, that’s why he has the no-trade clause, dummy! It’s more complicated than that though, thanks to the injuries to Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger. With those guys out, the C’s 2013 championship dreams are virtually down the tubes.
Ainge has maintained he is content to watch and wait with this group right now, but the fact remains he is listening to offers. If he gets one for Pierce that he can’t turn down, that puts Garnett in a very tough spot, since it would eliminate Boston’s chance of being a threat in the East.
Would Garnett want to stick around for a team with no chance this year, AND has dealt his buddy Pierce? Only Garnett knows, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wants out — to a team of his choice.
With that said, as long as Pierce stays put, I see no way Garnett agrees to be dealt. Those two are incredibly loyal to each other (and to Rivers as well). Here’s Garnett with some expanded thoughts on that loyalty and wanting to stay in one place from this October.
“I did give [retirement] some real thought [this offseason]. With free agency coming up, I didn’t want to think about another team or anything like that. My retirement, obviously, would have been a personal decision, based on family and whatever reasons I have. My No. 1 reason for coming back, obviously, was Doc. Doc being here is huge; I enjoy playing for him. The guys, the city, the fans here are by far the best fans that I’ve ever been a part of. All that stuck with me, along with family motivation and other things of that such, and just still being able (to compete), too. You want to be in position to still contribute, to still give something.”
After reading that, I think it’s fairly safe to say Garnett won’t agree to go anywhere as long as this team’s core is intact. However, Ainge may have the option of tearing up that core in a few weeks.
SHOULD THE CELTICS DEAL KG AND PIERCE TO BUILD FOR THE FUTURE?
Again, this is a tough question for Danny to deal with. Even if you put aside all of the sentimental arguments in which Celtic fans and the team’s ownership would have numerous very legitimate reservations about dealing the team’s heart and soul in Pierce and KG, it will still be tough for Ainge to pull the trigger on any deal due to a variety of factors.
For one thing, the post-Rondo era is going pretty well, as the team’s supporting pieces are finally playing up to their capabilities for the first time all season. Guys like Jason Terry and Brandon Bass were signed to long-term deals this offseason to give the Celtics a continual chance to compete in the East each year Garnett and Pierce were still around.
Thus, if the C’s want to build for the future, the only thing that would make sense is what I call the “nuclear” option. That means trading virtually all the seasoned veterans. Bass, Terry, Pierce, and KG (if he agrees to go). Dealing just one of the Pierce, Terry, KG group doesn’t make sense for the team if they are deciding to look to the future.
Personally, I’m not sure Ainge has the stomach to do that in-season. And even if he did, finding deals that make sense for the Celtics to deal all those pieces would be incredibly challenging. Can it be done? Yes. It’s finding the useful assets for Boston that would make it an actual reality would be the tougher part.
WHAT IS GARNETT’S TRADE VALUE?
So let’s push through the hypothetical scenarios here and assume Ainge decides to hit the reset button in a few weeks. Pierce and Terry are dealt for young assets and/or picks and KG agrees to be dealt, but only to a legitimate contender, probably to somewhere out West (the only plausible scenario in my mind in which he would agree to be traded).
With those parameters in place, the question first is what contenders would be interested in Garnett? That answer is easy: everyone. Garnett’s defense is still that good that virtually every team would take him right now.
Now the important question comes up. What team has the necessary pieces to deal for him, that they are willing to part with?
Chicago – Would KG agree to go play for Thibs? You’d think it might be a possibility, but Joakim Noah and Luol Deng aren’t going anywhere. An offer of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson would be enough talent for the C’s to get back (probably), but it would be too tough to make the salaries match on both sides in such a deal. Not sure Chicago would deal two promising young pieces like that either and mess with their future that much with Derrick Rose still out.
Miami – Next.
Other Eastern Conference Contenders (New York, Brooklyn, Indiana) – Not enough long-term prospects or good contracts (Roy Hibbert or Brook Lopez won’t cut it) for Celtics to satisfy the front office. Plus, I doubt Danny wants to improve any team in the East for the next two years by giving them a vengeful KG.
Clippers – We know what they offered, and apparently that’s not enough. Would that be willing to deal Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan for Garnett? That’s an interesting proposition. Not sure I like that deal for the C’s as is, (Jordan is overpaid in my opinion) but that potential offer is an example of two young promising players Danny would ideally be looking for.
Thunder – Durant/Westbrook/Ibaka aren’t going anywhere. Hard to think there is enough left outside of those three to entice Ainge unless Sam Presti wants give up Toronto’s first round pick for this year. Even then, not sure things match up salary wise, plus not sure OKC wants to mess with their team right now chemistry wise.
Lakers- Oh right, we were talking about contenders. Let’s move on.
Nuggets - Lots of young bodies here with contracts that could work. If KG wants to be dealt, this could be a possibility but I worry about how much he would sweat in that altitude. He also might not consider Denver a contender and that would be a sticking point.
Warriors – They actually have the talent here to make a monster deal involving KG, Terry, and Pierce work on the surface. Richard Jefferson and Andres Biedrens would have to come back to make the salaries work, but C’s could try to hold out for Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson in a deal like this in what would be ultimate win-now attempt for the Warriors. Would the Warriors be willing to mess with their future like that? They’d have to consider it, but it’d be tough to tinker that much with a team playing so well. Plus, I’m not sure C’s fans could handle Danny dealing Pierce and Garnett away in the same deal. They might charge Danny’s office.
Spurs – Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett can’t stand each other apparently, so that’s not going to work.
Grizz – They did their dealing already.
SO WILL GARNETT BE TRADED?
So, those are all the scenarios folks. If you factor everything I mentioned into consideration here, I highly doubt Garnett will be going anywhere this season. To recap, it’s doubtful he agrees to go anywhere (but certainly possible if Pierce gets dealt). If he’s dealt, the C’s asking price will be very high for him and there are not many teams that have the necessary pieces to make a deal work.
The Clippers, Warriors, and Nuggets are the only “realistic” possibilities in my book and there’s no sure thing Garnett would want to go to those spots or that they’d be willing to deal the pieces Ainge would want. That’s of course assuming Ainge wants to deal KG and everyone else in the first place. Those are a lot of if’s.
With that said, if you are a Celtics fan, you can now breathe a bit easier over the coming month when the Garnett rumors inevitably surface. The C’s will remain competitive as long as he is around, and have all their supporting pieces in place for next year to make another serious playoff run if Rondo comes back healthy. Barring getting bowled over with a deal he can’t refuse, I expect Ainge to sit tight and keep the core intact, for now anyway. Blowing it up completely would just be too messy to do at this point for everyone involved.