Saturday, June 03, 2006

Garnett Scenario

Fueled by rumblings of discontent in Minnesota, a lot of people have been wondering if there's any chance we could get Kevin Garnett. I've been trying to figure out a plausible scenario and I think I may have one.

The main thing is, you can't have him this season. But that's OK, I don't think he's going to be traded this season anyway. Minnesota will never be able to get equal value for him. (What are you going to do, trade Dwayne Wade or Tim Duncan for him? Would Shawn Marion be enough? McGrady might, but is he available?) That means they have a lot of incentive to keep KG, potential problems or no. If and when they do end up trading him, it will basically be a restart for their team. That will take at least another year to warm up to.

So here's how it goes. We go ahead and trade Zach and Darius to New York for Jalen Rose right now. Jalen's contract expires after next season. That's going to put us way under the cap in the summer of 2007. It'll also all but ensure us another very high lottery pick. (Which, frankly, we're probably going to get even if we keep Zach and Darius.) Next summer we offer that pick, one of our point guards, and Theo Ratliff (whose contract will have one year left at that point) to Minnesota for KG. There's a large salary imbalance there, but we will be enough under the cap to absorb it, so the salaries don't have to match. If Minnesota wanted we could also throw in Outlaw or Khryapa and take up one of their longer, mid-range contracts like Marko Jaric or Mark Blount.

The incentive for Minnesota to do this would be twofold. First, KG will be 31 at that point. With two enormous years ($22 and $24 million) left on his contract and him apparently unhappy, they have to worry about whether they'll be able to keep him after that. Unless they think they can win big in those two years they're paying a fortune to a discontented, aging superstar who's going to leave anyway. That's an expensive dead-end. There's a chance that they could trade his expiring contract in 2008, but again, who's going to give them equal value? Second, this trade gives them a leg up on their restart. They get a point guard in Telfair or Jack, young and ready to blossom. They get a very high draft pick in a top-friendly draft, allowing them a chance to pull the next superstar out of their hats. And they get Theo's expiring contract to use as trade bait or to clear $11 million of cap space the year after. (They now have cap space potential because we absorbed KG's contract.)

We, on the other hand, get our superstar team leader at a time when our young guys should be ready to rise. We have another point guard in the fold to replace the one we lose. The only thing we lose out on is that tantalizing draft pick, but we have enough youth already. And you know what? Even with that monstrous contract, we'd STILL have significant money left over to sign free agents. That's how much Zach, Darius, and Theo are making.

Admittedly this isn't the kind of offer Minnesota is initially hoping for, but they're not going to get that offer. In fact I'd bet that teams with the combination of enough cap room to take on KG and enough assets to offer will be rare. This deal may be unique amid a sea of underbids with high-paid, mediocre players. (Which is all we'd be able to offer them this year.) I'd say the first pick in next year's draft would definitely get this deal done. The second or third still might.

On Portland's side we need to ask whether we'll be able to make full use of KG. If the guards develop and we get a decent forward or center in this year's draft, we just might. Otherwise we'll just waste, and eventually lose, him the same way Minnesota would have. He'll be 33 when his contract expires and likely looking for a last, big payday, so we'd really have to improve significantly over those years and be ready to contend in order to justify re-signing him. It's a huge commitment. We'd have to be sure that KG was a better move than getting someone like Noah, or maybe even Oden, in terms of timing for our run. I think that's an open question.

I'm not 100% sure I'd do this deal given KG's age and future needs, but if we just have to have him, there you go.


P.S. We've had some response on the "dumb question" question and will probably do a post on that subject Monday. So get those questions in to if you have them!


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