By Vincent Bonsignore
Kevin Garnett, #5 of the Boston Celtics, shoots a jumper in front of Caron Butler, #5 of the Los Angeles Clippers, during a 106-77 Clipper win — the team’s 15th straight — at Staples Center on Dec. 27, 2012. The Clippers are said to be interested in a trade for Garnett that would include sending Butler to Boston. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The convergence of events leading up to the Clippers visit to Boston to play the Celtics Sunday essentially made it inevitable trade rumors would begin circulating between the two teams.
On one hand you have a Clippers club stumbling through their biggest skid of the season – after Sunday’s loss to Boston they’ve dropped six of eight games – while sliding down the Western Conference leader board.
On the other, the aging, expensive Celtics recently lost point guard Rajon Rondo to a season-ending knee injury, sending an already unbalanced season sideways.
With the Clippers potentially looking for help to get back on track, the Celtics contemplating blowing their roster up and going into full rebuild mode and the trade deadline approaching Feb. 21, the game of connect the dots is in full swing.
Which led to the report that surfaced Sunday in the Sporting News indicating the Clippers had inquired about Celtics’ forward Kevin Garnett.
According to the story, the Clippers are dangling point guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Caron Butler for the 37-year-old KG, who has two more years on his contract beyond this season worth $23 million.
From a money standpoint, the deal works under the salary cap rules as the combination of Bledsoe and Butler’s contracts line up accordingly to KG’s number.
From a practical standpoint, there are some holes.
First and foremost Garnett has a no-trade clause and can veto any deal. And while the thought of playing for a championship contender is enticing, is it enough to uproot his family and move across the country halfway through the season?
Secondly, even if the Celtics were serious about throwing in the towel on the Garnett/Paul Pierce era – and their four-game win streak without Rondo has people in Boston re-thinking that idea – would Bledsoe and Butler represent fair value for Garnett?
You have to believe the Celtics could do better than that package if they made KG available.
Both factors weigh heavily against Garnett moving west.
Meanwhile, from the Clippers perspective adding Garnett would obviously be an upgrade to the frontcourt.
But it comes with some risk.
With the Clippers, the bulk of Garnett’s minutes would come at center as he technically plays the same position as Blake Griffin.
That means center DeAndre Jordan would go to the bench, and that represents a serious no-confidence vote from the Clippers to their young big man and a devastating blow to Jordan’s psyche.While Jordan’s minutes have been dwindling recently, the Clippers would risk losing him altogether by benching him
And that’s something they must take into account.
In addition, considering Chris Paul’s health status – he’s missed seven straight games with a knee injury and 10 out of the last 12 – how practical is it for the Clippers to move Bledsoe, one of the more capable back-up point guards in the league?
Anyone who saw Paul limp through the playoffs last year understands keeping him healthy for an entire year is a challenge. He’s one of the all-time great competitors in the NBA, but at 6-foot, 175-pounds he’s particularly susceptible to wear and tear.
And finally, does it make sense for the Clippers to take on the two years; $23 million remaining on Garnett’s contract after this season considering it will take him beyond his 40th birthday?
That doesn’t seem logical to me.
Not saying the Clippers aren’t open to improving their roster at the deadline, because they are.
And while they remain tight-lipped about their deadline plans, all indications point to a level of interest in exploring ways to advance the roster.
But this trade seems unlikely.
At this point their best option is patience and waiting for Paul and Chauncey Billups to return.
When they do, the Clippers will have the deepest roster in the NBA. And as their 17-game win streak in December proved, when they have their best players available they are one of the best teams in the NBA.
It might not be the most exciting plan, but it is the most prudent.