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Would Kevin Garnett Actually Let The Celtics Trade Him?

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.


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:


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.


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.


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, 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.

  • janos

    hi Bryan is Janos
    of course they strong interest him, he is champion they are bum.

  • Phil725

    Good breakdown of the situation, and I agree with pretty much everything here. I find it very doubtful that he's going anywhere or that any major deal goes down. I agree that the only situation it's possible is if the team trades Pierce as well/first, but even then part of me just thinks he retires instead of starting over for a year in another city. It was apparently a close choice for him last offseason.

    The nuclear option is certainly the most intriguing option, but I can't really see it materializing. A lot of things have to fall in place. The one deal to get under the tax line is the least intriguing option; then it's still a team with no rebuilding direction, who won't win now… but at least Wyc will have some extra money! I don't think that happens though, this ownership team has been willing to spend in the past. Part of the fun of being in a big market, I don't get screwed over by my millionaire owner because he's only making a couple tens of millions.

    One thing I do disagree with is writing the Thunder off as a potential destination in a trade scenario though. This is the deal that I've seen kicked around some:

    With the Thunder adding in that lottery pick. The problem is one of the reasons I hated the Harden trade for them; Toronto's not bad enough to make that pick really good. I don't think that's enough (that's a lot of dead money on the Perk deal, and we know Ainge apparently hates PJ3 if he was willing to take Melo over him,) but it could be a starting point. Then again, the dead money already on the roster might make them okay with taking back the Perk deal. They can't sign anyone until 2015 regardless unless they use Pierce/KG/Rondo to unload the Bass/Terry/Lee/Green deals, and you don't get good assets back in that case.

    Edit: Although I should note that I like the rumored Bledsoe deal better than anything the Thunder could offer, so maybe that's all that needs said on the subject.

    • Banner18

      Not to keen on the swamp with the Thunder. Would anyone really favor in that? C's passed up on Jones in the draft, J Lamb is a D league player, and we already traded off Perk. For the Thunder: Do they really want Ibaka being overshadowed?

      • Phil725

        I fully agree actually. I mentioned that because I had just read the ESPN Per Diem today that mentioned a similar deal, and it was fresh in my mind.

        Besides the Clippers, there are a couple of other possibilities in the West. The Oklahoma City Thunder are the most intriguing destination. Upgrading from Kendrick Perkins in the middle would make the Thunder the overwhelming favorite to win the title, and Oklahoma City has enough young assets (including rookies Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb and the rights to Toronto's protected first-round pick) to make a deal like this without overhauling its rotation.

        The trade mentioned there was actually Eric Maynor instead of Lamb, but I'm not a huge fan of Maynor either. Doing more research on what the Thunder could offer, I'm in agreement with Brobb on them. And I miss Hollinger writing the Per Diem :(

        Edit: Though in fairness, a few people have mentioned the Thunder as potential trade partners. I guess it depends on what you think of their assets.

        • OKCeltic

          Living in OKC, I've watched nearly every Thunder game this year. J Lamb is a "D League" player only because he has Durant and Kevin Martin playing in front of him. They feel it's better for him to get run everyday rather than maybe getting 2-3 minutes every other game. The kid can flat-out shoot/score. He's scored over 30 points his last three D-League games. Obviously, not the highest level of competition, but that's still a lot of points.

          As expected, Perk is loved in this area, but if you packaged him with Lamb, and PJ3 or the Toronto pick (don't know if you could get both), I don't see how the Thunder wouldn't consider it. Also, I don't know if DA "hates" PJ3. He's a small forward, and all we talked about the last few years was the need for bigs. Melo is a big. PJ3 is more of a SF.

          • OKCeltic

            BTW, I'm not in favor of trading KG. I want to see this season play out.

  • Anthony

    Thanks Brian! Great breakdown. It's very comforting to see the unlikelihood of a KG trade. Any chance we can see the same for Pierce?

    • brobb7

      Definitely. We'll have more on Pierce possibilities in the coming week.

  • The Cardinal

    "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 and other teams who think they are one piece away from making a title run." I believe the media and the fans who haven't actually watched 95% of the Celtics games believe this, but I don't think that Doc and the players do and after seeing with my own eyes that the current, healthy group of players mesh well as a team, I too no longer believe that quote.

    Rondo going down was big, but we can't deny the fact that the veteran guards on this team are a talented bunch that was just waiting to be cut loose. They seldom gamble and tend to stay in front of the man they are guarding, which is something Rondo just would not do, and they are all better shooters/scorers.

    While the Sully loss hurts, I think the Celtics came into this season expecting to win with last years bigs along with Jeff Green switching back and forth between the 3 and 4. Sully's rookie season simply has simply been an unexpected bonus, but I don't think Doc counted on him to contribute as much as he has.

    That said, they are still going to have to find a solid, complementary big who can battle on the boards and run the floor with the remaining players, and Doc is going to have to accommodate the talent he has offensively by putting the ball in Barbosa's and Terry's hands as much as he does with Green and Pierce. Let them freewheel from time to time! Barbosa really makes some nice passes as well as drives, and Jet simply thrives when handling the ball more. Defenses are having a very hard time figuring the guard-centric Barbosa/Terry/Lee trio out and while they will adjust some, I think this combo will adjust and continue to meet the challenges as well.

    Offensively, these three guards together play a style that reminds me of Golden State and Milwaukee when their back courts are clicking and defensively, our three guards are much better within the C's team concept than their competitors are in their own. Both Lee and Barbosa have done adequate jobs at guarding the other teams second unit 3's when Terry, Lee, and Barbosa are together, Green is at the 4. Yeah, you would not want to play this unit together a whole game, but for 5 or 6 minutes each half? From what I've seen, we should.

    I believe we can compete for a title if we forget about playing the way we would have with Rondo and focus on continuing to play in the most productive ways without him.

    • KillerGymRat

      I definitely think (unless Ainge makes big roster changes) this current team has a punchers chance to beat anyone…and I actually like our chances against the Heat if it ended up 1/8 seeds.

      The real key in the post-season is experience and knowing how to win close games under all that pressure. We have that. The playoffs really are a second season and anything can happen. 2 years ago San Antonio (who had the best record) gets steamrolled in the first round. Last year Chicago (who I believe had the best record) loses D-Rose (again) and they're out in the second.

      It will really come down to match ups and the ever illusive string of good breaks that could pave the way for a deep playoff run. If we can avoid Brooklyn and Indiana I think this team is a threat to beat anyone else. We're definitely the team nobody wants to have to play.

      Who knows, this team if it keeps gelling and building confidence could be like the 2011 Mavs.

  • High Rollers

    Great piece, Mr. Robb!

    Seems like KG has not only his no-trade clause for leverage but also the very real option of up and retiring whenever he darn well feels like it… even mid-season if necessary. The man is all grit and principle (with enough money to last ten life-times probably). I think Big Ticket is really holding if not all then most of the cards.

    Trading Pierce is definitely cutting the wrong wire, and I think KG has already made that fairly clear with comments indicating that 34 is still the center of the Celtic Universe. Very much sounds to me like it's Truth's House or no place, and it's a package deal. At the same time, he's being very professional. Not one explicit cry to the public at large for his boss to maintain the status quo (the core of it anyway). The man just talks about getting better, and getting out of the mess they made of the first half of the season, together.

    On a side note, I love the fantasy that was immediately conjured by Mark Murphy's little night out with Chauncey 411. If he's ready to go and finds a way off the Clipper Train, and then joins us for a run, hoowa! Mr. Big Shot would fit nicely with The Truth and the Big Ticket. Very nicely. And maybe he could bring along his old 'mate Kenyon for boarding and 18-footers in the makeshift spread offense we've got going. LA probably won't let him go if he is healthy, but the clandestine meeting — Operation Dinner Out? — has my hopes up.

    • Phil725

      The thought of adding Billups actually makes me a little sick. Remember all of the issues that everyone's been blaming Rondo for lately like dribbling for 18 seconds and slowing down the offense? Billups would mean all of that returning, only without the upside of a player who shouldn't have retired a year ago.

      He's a coach at this point of his career. He's needed in LAC because it's hard for Chris Paul to play the point and coach at the same time, so he needs a backup coach. We've got a coach here, and I think he'd be way too likely to go back to an offense that we know doesn't work if he got a guy who's name far exceeded his talent at this point of his career. The silver lining of the Rondo injury is that the guard rotation now works, and the team is playing how it should.

      • High Rollers

        I don't know what state Billups' body is in. If it's healthy, I think his presence would have definite upside. There are times where we lack a settling on-the-ball presence out there. (And when we aren't, who isn't wondering how much it's taking out of Pierce and KG?)

        Basically, he's champion, he's a point guard, and our core guys like him. I've seen him play. He'd do his best to fit in. The way things are working right now, the system we've got out there without 9, I think he'd mesh and settle us when things get chaotic and/or the Big 2 are on fumes.

        • High Rollers

          But it's a long-shot anyway. If the Clips think he's healthy, I doubt they'll set him free. The dinner might have been no more no less than food with friends. Maybe.

  • IBleedGreen

    I would trade Rondo for Bledsoe + Butler in a heart beat. Rondo would be a great backup for Chris Paul.

    • janos


    • jman

      Good trade I totally agree. Bledsoe is the type of guard we need not a rondo. Plus butler would be a good backup or trading piece for a big. Trading kg or pierce is not smart unless the nuclear option is in place and the ownership is willing to take a hit with the fans for a few years till we're back on top.
      This team is fantastic at this moment. Hopefully we can get a big soon to really make the team a contender.
      This team is a contender and will be as long as they continue their course of action. Keep pushing the ball. Last nights fourth quarter showed that rondo style play and look what happened, we almost lost it. Transition offense and continuous ball movement wins games.

  • Banner18

    I could be completely off on this, but has their been a team in recent memory that has ACTUALLY benefited by blowing up the organization? I feel as though teams who blow up with the intent of having their young'ns mature, ultimately bail and overpay a "premier" player to compensate for let down seasons in the rebuilding process.

    • jmei

      Memphis traded Pau Gasol in 2008 for what was universally described as a hugely underwhelming haul. Even after totally whiffing on Thabeet with the second overall pick, they've developed Marc Gasol into a legitimate All-Star and defensive anchor and used the roster flexibility gained in that trade to pick up very useful assets (Randolph, Tony Allen, etc). They aren't a premier contender, but they've been in that second tier the last two years and moved past the first round of the playoffs only after they traded Pau and Battier (the first time).

  • Danny in LA

    Clipps would never agree to this, but if they miraculeously did you HAVE to take the Bledsoe and Jordan trade for Garnett.

    That is two young, high potential starters for an aging starter. I LOVE KG, but there is no guarentee his health will let him go for another year. Bledsoe and Jordan are two quality young players who I would say are both stronger impact (and consistent) players than Jeff Green even is… Pull the trigger on this Danny!

  • jmei

    What about Houston as a Garnett destination? They have a sabremetrically-inclined FO that is likely to place an appropriate amount of weight on Garnett's defensive contributions as well as a head coach with whom KG still shares a close personal bond. They might believe that an Asik-Garnett frontline combined with Harden's continued progression towards superstardom is enough to make the Rockets a legitimate title contender in the next two-three years and might be willing to give up some of the many assets they've been stockpiling (Patterson, Morris, Motiejunas, Terrence Jones, Royce White, etc.).

    One problem: they don't really have the contract heft necessary to put together a proper trade, and it would almost certainly require something like a 4-for-1 deal, which is obviously not ideal. Still, I think it's one of the few locations KG would accept a trade that might also have the assets the Celtics would look for if they decided to take the nuclear option.

    • jmei

      Oops– I forgot the Rockets also have a ton of cap space and don't need strictly matching salaries, in which case a deal like this would return a bunch of interesting assets (no blue-chippers, but three late lottery picks from the last three drafts and one high-upside young European, all of whom are bigs) and give the Celtics a fair bit of salary relief, too: http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=cwa58

  • Josh_5

    As KG's #1 fan, the only team I would accept seeing him play for (besides Boston) is Oklahoma City.

  • SteveZ from Edgemont

    Celtics very unklikely to want to trade KG as long as they have plans to compete for the playoffs. KG I think would likely retire unless the situation he was moving to had some special meaning to him. Bu even if the Celts go to rebuilding at the expense of of current season goals, as long as they have plans for Fab Melo and Sullinger or any other young big men, KG's value to the team and organization remain very valuable, if he is committed. And my guess is KG only continues if he is into it and committed.

  • Pauper

    Interesting article but you are way off base thinking Taj Gibson and Butler are worth KG. You are clearly overvaluing average players on a very good team and great coach.

  • hydrofluoric

    We're talking about a shot at the title here, not winning a round or even two before bowing out. Playoffs Rondo was quite easily a Top 5 player last year and we could not have won against Philly or taken Miami so deep without his contribution.

    You almost need a player like that to win a title, someone who can make something out of a broken play and dominate a game. This team certainly does. Depth doesn't get it done without that transcendent player.

    • Anthony

      But only 2 team currently have that transcendent player… Miami with Lebron and OKC with Durant. (and maybe LAC with CP3).

      While I'm not overly optimistic about our chances at #18 sans Rondo, with a couple of breaks here and there, I don't think it's far-fetched to get out of the East.

      Last year's playoff roster – KG, Bass, Pierce, a hobbled Ray, Rondo, Pietrus and Dooling, Hollins, Stiemsma playing limited minutes. AB was injured essentially after the 1st round.

      This year's roster – KG, Bass, Pierce, AB, CLee, Green, JET, Barbosa with Hollins, Wilcox playing limited minutes. All things considered, that's not too bad a squad. And comparing the two, I like our chances.

      • Anthony

        To add to my point, the 2009 Lakers got super lucky when Yao Ming got injured in the 2nd round, then got several boneheaded plays on several games by the Nuggets in the conference finals, and played a weak Orlando team in the Finals only because KG was injured that year.

  • Derkaderk

    ESPN and the LA Times already confirmed that not only was this never a serious trade conversation, the conversation with the Clippers never happened in the first place.

    The Sporting News is printing stuff on bad sources to throw drama into the Celtics' locker room. Again.

  • Leonard

    Why would you trade for Butler? He is old also

  • Andrew

    Pretty sure it’s Duncan that can’t stand, actually hate, Garnett. They have clashing personalities but to my knowledge I haven’t heard anything about KG not wanting to play with Duncan. A TD-KG front court, despite their age, is tantalizing though.