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Friday, June 22, 2007

Kevin Garnett Does Not Think That He and Paul Pierce Can Outduel LeBron James

Trade speculation does not interest me--but a deal that probably would have happened if Kevin Garnett had not very publicly quashed it is certainly worthy of discussion. As has been widely reported by various outlets, Minnesota and Boston were close to agreeing to a trade that would have sent Garnett to Boston in exchange for several players plus the fifth overall selection in the 2007 draft. This would have allowed Minnesota to start over with a crop of young, talented players, led by Al Jefferson, Randy Foye and whoever the Timberwolves selected with the fifth pick; meanwhile, Boston would instantly become a serious Eastern Conference contender, led by the duo of Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Garnett does not have a no-trade clause but he can effectively scuttle any proposed deal because he can opt out of his contract in one year and become a free agent. Naturally, all Garnett has to do is make it clear that he has no intention of staying with his new team and that kills any potential trade. In other words, while Garnett cannot choose his new destination he has a pretty powerful say in deciding where he won't go. The question, though, is what Garnett has in mind for his future. Perhaps he and his agent know something that the rest of us don't, but it is far from certain that a better situation will emerge for him than playing alongside Pierce in an Eastern Conference where LeBron James carried a team all the way to the NBA Finals. If Garnett does not think that he and Pierce together can beat James and the Cavaliers then how much help does Garnett think that he needs? Maybe his goal is to land in Phoenix and play alongside Steve Nash--but if Garnett goes there then obviously Amare Stoudemire or Shawn Marion leave and it is not at all clear that Garnett is enough of an upgrade over either player to make a difference against the San Antonio Spurs. Frankly, considering Stoudemire's youth and Marion's all-around game, it could be argued that Garnett is not an upgrade over either player, period.

It will be interesting to see which deal bubbles up next and if Garnett immediately shoots that one down, too. Perhaps he is content to simply stay in Minnesota, well off of the national radar, collect his paycheck and become a free agent a year from now.

posted by David Friedman @ 3:39 PM



At Friday, June 22, 2007 6:17:00 PM, Blogger jeff smith said...

kg should go to phoenix if they get rid of stoudamire then it would be a bad move but if they get rid of marion they will win the championship next year they were as good as sanantonio already just the mistake by stoudamire cost them and kg is up grade from marion. so they should make the deal minnesota not going anywhere with kg and the roster he has currently nor with marion bell and others who would be traded there. so it's a win win situation.

At Friday, June 22, 2007 10:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, so Boston isn't on Kobe's list either. What kind of talent do you think he feels he needs around him to get past LeBron???

Only Chicago's, apparently.

At Saturday, June 23, 2007 5:54:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


As I mentioned in the comments section to my other KG post, I don't agree that KG is much of an upgrade--if any--over Marion. If KG comes to Phx in exchange for either Amare or Marion I would not expect the Suns to do any better in the postseason than they have the past three years.


Did I miss something? Did Kobe nix a deal that would have sent him to the Celtics, as KG did? I would be interested to know the particulars. Boston was ready to give up Jefferson, the fifth pick and other players for KG but that combination would not make as much sense for the Lakers, since Jefferson and Odom play the same position.

Anyway, a Kobe-Pierce pairing makes much less sense than a KG-Pierce pairing because Kobe and Pierce do a lot of the same things and operate in the same areas of the court.

Kobe would absolutely make the Bulls the favorites to win the East as long the Bulls do not have to completely gut their team to get him. What the Bulls need to do is get a three-way deal set up, with somebody else shipping a star to L.A. so that the Bulls don't have to part with Deng. A lineup headlined by Kobe, Deng and Ben Wallace would be quite formidable.

At Saturday, June 23, 2007 6:17:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Perhaps KG's reluctance to play in Boston has something to do with the city's reputation as an unwelcoming place for black athletes, and black people in general.

I think an Amare-for-KG trade is risky, but it might be worth the risk. KG would probably do a better job of defending Duncan than anyone who the Suns currently have, and maybe that is enough to put them over the top.

One thing which I find rather puzzling about the Suns is their alleged desire to get rid of Shawn Marion. I understand that they don't want to pay the luxury tax, but is a championship really of such little importance to them compared to saving costs during a year or two? I think the Suns were pretty close to a title last year, and if they win a championship, it would probably make up for the extra cost of paying Marion. When a team is as close as they are, I don't understand why they don't take that risk of paying Marion and giving it one last shot at a title, at least for a year. Maybe the Suns think they won't miss much without Marion, but I think it would be foolish to take his defense, rebounding, and other skills for granted.

The Marion situation, along with Kobe's accusations of the Lakers' braintrust not being committed to winning brings up another point (Bill Simmons and Rick Bucher discussed this on a podcast). Some organizations seem more concerned with making profits than doing whatever it takes to win. As a fan, it just sucks to see that.

At Saturday, June 23, 2007 12:15:00 PM, Blogger jeffsmith said...

kg goes to phoenix he puts them over sanantonio they were already as good as san antonio with marion the stoudamire situation hurt them or made them lose to san antonio last year with kg puts them over the top and i dont think sa will repeat kg will be enough you must be a suns hater or something.

boston is a racist area but most of the players are black now you got to ask yourself why doesnt he want to go there marion also said he didnt want to play in boston either must be because of their past reputation as well.

At Saturday, June 23, 2007 7:05:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Boston's racial history, particularly regarding the Celtics, is very interesting. The team has always been, for lack of a better word, progressive, dating back to the drafting of Chuck Cooper, the usage of five blacks on the court at the same time when this was generally not done in the NBA and the hiring of Bill Russell as player/coach. That is why it is so ironic that in the 1980s, with players like Bird, McHale and Ainge, the Celtics were viewed as a "white" team, because from a historical standpoint the Celtics were the most colorblind of all the NBA franchises.

Of course, the city was not nearly as welcoming to black athletes as the team was, as documented by several well known and despicable instances of vandalism and hatred directed toward Russell and other players. Since I am neither black nor a resident of Boston I can't honestly say that I have a good sense at the moment of what the racial attitudes are in Boston or how a black athlete might feel about living/playing there.

KG probably defends Duncan better than Amare, who I would say is often an indifferent defensive player, but Amare scores better against Duncan than KG does so the net effect would be a wash in my opinion. The Nash/Amare pick and roll is a big part of the Suns' offense and a lot of their shooters get open when teams struggle to defend against it. I'm not sure that a Nash/KG pick and roll play would be quite as deadly, which might make the whole offense easier to defend.

Marion is a bit of a malcontent in that he feels that he does not get the recognition that he deserves. This bubbles up a couple times a year and then usually dies down without too much fanfare but that is part of the reason that the Suns might look to deal him. That said, I agree with you that Marion contributes at least as much as KG would and that letting Marion go or trading him for KG would not help the Suns.

As for the money situation, teams face a dollar for dollar "luxury tax" when they go over the salary cap. While all the NBA owners are fantastically wealthy compared to regular people some of the owners are much wealthier than others. Jerry Buss is so famous that many fans probably assume that he is among the wealthier owners but that is not in fact the case and that was a big part of the reason that he is very reluctant to get into luxury tax territory, hence his trade of Shaq to Miami, whose owner has significantly greater financial resources. I don't know off the top of my head about the net worth of the Suns' owner but I do know that many owners, like Buss, are very reluctant to venture into the luxury tax. I understand that as a fan it can be quite disheartening to see a team that is very close to a championship not keep its roster together but even very wealthy people have their limits. This was also an issue with the Bulls (although the luxury tax was not in effect at that time), when they were hesitant to pay MJ near the end of his career there. I've always felt like if I had enough money to own a team that I would spend whatever it took to win a title, even if the team operated at a bit of a financial loss to do so, but I must admit that it is easier to say that than to actually make that decision when one's own real money is involved (that said, I still maintain that I would do this but I understand that not everyone thinks that way).

At Saturday, June 23, 2007 8:17:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


If there is one thing that I really do "hate" it is the usage of the term "hater" to describe someone who has a different opinion. I don't "hate" the Suns. Nash has been voted MVP for three straight years and has yet to either lead the Suns past the Spurs in the playoffs or lead the Suns to the NBA Finals. I see no reason to believe that the Suns are going to change that next year, whether they trade for KG or not. The Spurs right now are as good as they have ever been, while Nash is older than Duncan and more apt to physically break down.

At Tuesday, June 26, 2007 6:05:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Certainly not every NBA owner is a die-hard basketball fan like you and I, so I understand the reluctance to strain themselves financially to try to win a championship.

Still, I feel like trying to win a championship would be a sensible goal from a business perspective. I'm no expert on this, but wouldn't a championship run bring in a substantial amount of extra revenue? I'm thinking of all the extra tickets sold for playoffs and finals games, all of the extra team merchandise fans would buy, and the overall prestige and status of the franchise.

Maybe the extra revenue I'm talking about isn't THAT much, but it's hard to believe it wouldn't be enough to cover a few extra million you'd have to pay a Shawn Marion.

I know Jerry Buss isn't the richest among NBA owners, but I think his reluctance to exceed the luxury-tax threshold cost the Lakers a few titles and continues to haunt the team to this day. While the Lakers were winning titles, they rarely went out and added new talent in the offseason, not wanting to pay the luxury tax. They figured Shaq and Kobe would just be able to carry them to another title. While this did happen a few times, the Lakers ultimately began to suffer from a lack of depth. This probably cost them the title in 2003 and 2004 (after Malone got hurt, they had no one left to step in). It also left the cupboard bare after Shaq was traded and Fisher, Malone, etc. walked, forcing the team to fill out their roster with minimally talented players.

At Tuesday, June 26, 2007 3:10:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Like I said, I agree with you and like to think that if I were in a position to own an NBA team that I would do everything possible to win an NBA title. That said, most of these owners are self-made (as opposed to having inherited their wealth) and I suspect that they are pretty good at doing cost/benefit analysis. The extra revenue from a few more home playoff games and the added prestige of winning a title probably does not cover the tens of millions of extra dollars that it would cost to extend a player a max deal for max years. I don't know what the current tax rules are regarding this but some owners who made their money in other areas used to run their teams at a loss and write this loss off on their taxes, so they didn't care if their teams lost money--they actually preferred to take a slight loss, because it lessened their overall tax burden from their other, profitable businesses. Obviously, if an owner's only or primary business is his team, then he can't afford to run it at a loss.

The other thing is that, after several years of playoff failure, the Suns' owner may simply believe that spending millions on Marion will not guarantee the Suns a title and that the money may be better spent on other players. Let's be honest: signing or extending Marion is not the sure thing that, say, signing Michael Jordan was in 1996.

I agree that Buss' reluctance to venture into the luxury tax has potentially cost the Lakers some championships. It almost derailed the dynasty before it began: Jackson wanted to sign Pippen prior to the 2000 season but Buss was not willing to spend the money--and Pippen's Blazers came within one monumental fourth quarter collapse of beating the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. You are also right that the Lakers never really bolstered the roster that much during the title years, other than adding old Malone and old Payton at discounted rates.


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