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It’s hard to believe that Garnett’s massive extension, the one that relentlessly haunted Celtics fans during the knee ligament fiasco in 2009 and 2010, is actually coming off the books this summer.
For a Boston team wheezing its last collective breaths, that has to turn the “Big Ticket” into the “Big Trade Chip,” no?
That’s not say that Garnett doesn’t have anything left to offer. Even at 35, in his 17th season, he could bring almost unmatched leadership and toughness to a contending team, while also providing more than $20 million in cap relief this summer. Not bad, eh? In fact, for these reasons, he might be their most appealing asset outside of Rondo.
(Remember, Pierce has two additional years left that pay him more than $30 mil.)
As difficult as it is to imagine, the Celtics have to strongly consider dealing their scowling mascot.
Especially when you look around the free agency landscape and realize how top-heavy it is.
Obviously, with Rondo there’s no need for Deron Williams and apparently they’re not on Dwight Howard’s radar either.
So, considering the cream of the free agency crop is basically out of Boston’s range, having roughly $20 million in cap space this summer doesn’t mean much.
Don’t believe me? Look for yourself.
The most appealing unrestricted free agents on that list are Steve Nash, Leandro Barbosa, Raymond Felton, Chris Kaman, Goran Dragic and Jason Terry. Not exactly 2010 all over again.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to flip an expiring contract for a team trying to get cap relief, like the Granger for Allen deal we proposed yesterday? Of course it does.
Jerry West is not comfortable with undersized guards. The Warriors have two very talented ones. With first year head coach Mark Jackson off to a 5-10 start, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in the Bay Area if West winds up pulling the trigger on an Ellis trade. Defensively, the team’s play has been atrocious, as evidenced by their fifth-from-last position in Hollinger’s Defensive Efficiency ratings. Couldn’t Garnett potentially scare David Lee into at least trying to play defense?
Monta’s scoring would be missed, but with the team quickly playing itself out of the playoff race it might be time to start considering lottery position while making roster moves. With what looks to be an absolutely loaded class, Warriors execs have all the more reason to consider moving Ellis rather than play out the year and land at the bottom of the lottery (and potentially miss out on a draft bonanza similar to the landscape-changing 2003 class).
Ainge brings in a player to take some of the scoring burden off of Pierce. Ellis long ago established himself as a player who can get his points, but this year he has taken strides to improve his efficiency as a scorer too. In particular, the improvement in his post-up numbers has been noteworthy, as he is currently leading the league in PPP (points per possession) on post up attempts, AND he has increased the percentage of his shots that he take in post up situations threefold over last season. With Ellis clearly working to rid himself of the reputation of being overly trigger happy, his $11 million salary this year seems fairly reasonable.
Meanwhile Biedrins represents a huge upgrade at center for the Celtics. He rebounds better than any current Celtic by a mile (ranked third this season in Defensive Rebounding Rate, behind only Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum) and he is a competent offensive player, outside of his Rondo-like fear of the free throw line. Like the rest of his current Warrior teammates, defensively he leaves something to be desired, but some part of that has to be attributed to the system. In an environment as defense-oriented as Boston, he would likely learn to become a serviceable defender.
Yes, Boston would be taking back Joe Johnson’s inflated contract in order to get a suddenly-improving Josh Smith. Is the promising 6-foot-10 Smith worth the burden of a 30-year-old Joe Johnson with more than $89 million left on his monstrous contract? For Boston, it should be.
While some players were lying on Waikiki beaches, Smith was in the gym. Maybe he was motivated by Atlanta’s perennial post-season flop, but he should be used to that by now. (And don’t you dare try to spin the Hawks first round ousting of an imploding Orlando team last year as some sort of accomplishment.)
Anyway, the suddenly lean (25 pounds lighter, according to Jeff Schultz) Smith is playing like a pre-Dallas center in a contract year.
He’s hitting the glass with ferocity and not just against conference bottom-feeders. He had an efficient 25-6 in Atlanta’s win against the Bulls and this month alone has five games with 13 or more rebounds. Pair Smith with Rondo for two years and he’ll never want to leave Boston.
Meanwhile, putting the beefy Johnson in Allen’s old role would give the Celtics a tougher, more physical dimension and just as importantly, a sorely needed offensive creator. Johnson might be overpaid, but his defense, shooting and attacking are still at an All-Star level.
So why the hell does Atlanta get rid of Smith AND Johnson? Don’t get swept up in the Hawks’ post-Horford success. Even if they somehow keep it up and finish third in the East, there’s no way they get past the Eastern Conference Finals, or even the second round for that matter. Why they ever overpaid to keep this average core together is something you would find in the second chapter of Joe Dumars’ Guide to Managing.
With this deal the Hawks are basically granted a miracle- a mulligan on the Johnson deal. They also give Jeff Teague two strong veteran presences (remember, Allen’s tutelage is one of the things that greatly helped Rondo’s development) and effectively change the culture in Atlanta. Sure, they won’t win a championship with this core either, but they do get the cap space this summer to seriously go after Dwight Howard or at the very least, a higher pick in a strong draft.
And then, if all else fails, they can just go the O.K.C. route- be terrible next season, aim for a top-five pick in 2013 and hope you find Teague a running mate by the time he’s up for an extension. Who cares if it’s grim. Atlanta fans aren’t exactly packing the stands this season anyway.
Everybody loves a good homecoming story, and Kevin Garnett making a return to Minnesota makes sense. As we’ve discussed before, Beasley’s days in Minneosta are more than likely numbered. Beasley is a perfect fit as the centerpiece in exchange for any of the “Big Three,” with high upside and a contract coming off the books this year (though the hope would obviously be that Beasley would earn an extension, the guy has more upside for the next ten years than the entire 2012 free agent class combined).
Speaking of upside, Anthony Randolph, enigmatic as his play may appear at times, could turn into a quality starting power forward. With Jermaine O’neal only getting creakier; Brad Miller (two years older than O’neal himself) and Pekovic could help take some of the burden off his knees. Hell, if they played it right we might even see Jermaine suiting up for a playoff series!
Minnesota could bring back one of the most beloved players in the state’s history to help instill a winning attitude and accountability defensively, even if he can’t top Phil Mickelson’s vertical at this point. Keeping Love’s (hopefully soon to be signed) contract extension in mind, the T-wolves could afford to move some of their extra assets for an expiring contract. What player with an expiring contract is more appealing to any Minnesota fan? While he wouldn’t be as effective as four years ago, Garnett could slide in next to Love at the center position (remember Perkins was often on the bench in crunch-time in favor of Glen Davis, often leaving Garnett to defend the opposing five), and that HAS to be an improvement over Darko (their current starter).
After the one-year rental the Wolves could offer him the mid-level (probably his market value) or let him walk, or more likely retire. Bradley is an interesting prospect, undersized as a shooting guard, he might be a poor man’s Russell Westbrook some day, but will need to drastically improve his ball handling and turnover rate before an NBA team turns the keys over to him as a point guard.
Oh, yeah. Knicks GM Ernie Grunwald should look at this floundering team and think two things-
1. “Why the hell did we gut half our team for ‘Melo, when we could have just waited till the summer?” and..
2. “Amar’e might actually put a hit out on Anthony if he’s ever on the court again for 45 minutes and take fewer than 10 shots,” as was the case against the Nuggets Saturday.
Grunwald has to notice that Deron Williams’ soul is slowly dying in Jersey, waiting for Superman like a desperate Lois Lane. This season, the Nets should just go with it and play The Smiths whenever Williams checks in and out of games.
Knowing that, Grunwald should go all-in after Williams or Howard and hope that one bites. Wouldn’t Williams rather go with Anthony and Chandler and possibly Garnett, with Phil Jackson possibly waiting in the wings? Doesn’t that sway him?
Meanwhile, the Celtics would take a gamble on another set of knees and hope that Stoudemire can at the very least go for another three years. It might seem too risk at first, until you think of the possibility of Rondo-Amar’e pick and rolls. Ainge has to be thinking the same thing right? Few things could jumpstart the Celtics offense so dramatically. Wouldn’t they immediately become the most dangerous low seed since the ’99 Knicks?
Again, there aren’t that many quality unrestricted free agents this summer.
Cap space is encouraging. Remaining relevant is preferred.
This is the third of our four-part Boston-centered “Sources Should Say” feature. Check out the first two pieces on Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Check out other “Sources Should Say” pieces on Paul Pierce, Steve Nash, Josh Smith, Michael Beasley and DeMarcus Cousins.