The offseason is here for the Boston Celtics, and in just a couple of months, they will begin the process of putting next year’s team together. We will take a look at the current Celtics and try to figure out what to do with each of them. We continue today with Kevin Garnett.
Kevin Garnett finds himself in a significantly better position than Paul Pierce (profiled at great length yesterday due to the complexity of his situation).
While Pierce has no choice but to sit and wait for what Danny Ainge may do to his career, Garnett has the Celtics at his mercy. The reality is, none of the stuff the Celtics can “do” with Kevin Garnett can be done without Garnett signing off on it. He is in total control of his own destiny.
So the Celtics options with Garnett are limited, to say the least. Every option involving him no longer being a Celtic begins with sitting him down and saying ”Hey Kevin, we’re about to embark on a summer of moves aimed at long-term success, which means we do not expect to contend next season.”
Convince him to retire
After that conversation is had, the Celtics can lay out a plan that shows KG that they’re serious about this. This would have to involve the departure of Paul Pierce so Garnett knows the team is serious about taking a full step into the next phase of its existence.
The key in this scenario is to make sure KG files retirement papers. That’s the only way to get him to forgo his remaining salary. If he doesn’t, then the Celtics are screwed, because then they would have to figure out a buyout and that barely give the Celtics any cap relief this season. It’s possible that Garnett could quit, but not file papers, and cause the Celtics to not even get under the cap because he forced a buyout. That would be a nightmare scenario.
Garnett’s retirement is a dicey situation, especially if he feels like it’s being done in a disloyal fashion. He holds enough cards to screw with the Celtics.
Convince him to be traded
The Celtics could finish the above conversation with “we’d like to know if there are any teams to which you’d prefer to be traded. Give us a list of teams, and we’ll talk to them.”
Chances are that list would be short, and it would probably involved revisiting talks with the Clippers. But who knows? Maybe he’d want to go full circle and finish with Minnesota? Maybe Golden State is a good young team where he’ll feel appreciated? Maybe he’d want to play for a coach like Gregg Popovich in San Antonio?
We don’t know because none of us are in a position to ask. But if Garnett doesn’t want to retire and Danny is adamant about moving on without him, then it’s a discussion to be had.
The downfall to this is you can’t expect to get much for Garnett. Yes, he just boarded like a beast in the playoffs, but he turns 37 in just a few days (May 19. Mark your calendars. Send him a nice edible arrangement or something). Teams know he can only play about 20-25 minutes a game during the regular season, and he might quit after a year. That’s not the type of guy, no matter what his pedigree, that teams will entice teams to mortgage their futures.
Like I said, the options are limited with Garnett. Buying him out is not really an option because the only reason to get rid of Garnett is to bring in other, younger players to fill needs or to get the $12.4 million off the books. A buyout does neither. And since his contract next season is much like Paul Pierce’s (KG is set to make $12 million, but only $6 million is guaranteed. Celtics can cut him before July 15, 2014 for a $6 million savings), I wonder what the real rush is to get Garnett off the ledger.
The futures of Pierce and Garnett have been tied together since Garnett said what happens to Pierce will have a big impact on his future. But while everyone ASSUMES that means he’ll quit, it might not mean that at all. And you can’t make a move with Pierce and then sit and pray that Garnett says “well, that’s all folks.” He may ask to be released. He may demand a trade. He could do nothing and say “you know what, I’ll roll with Doc and the young fellas for a little while.”
So to recap…
- Kevin Garnett retiring and filing papers would save the Celtics the full $12 million on their cap. KG would be out of the league for at least a year before he could return, should he change his mind.
- Garnett asking for his release would require a buyout, and would leave most of his money still on the cap, including the guaranteed money he’s due next season.
- Trading Garnett would require the Celtics to match salaries, and at most, another team can take in 150% + $100,000 of the outgoing value of the trade. That would save a few million as far as the cap goes.
- Keeping Garnett would leave things unchanged.
There’s nothing that says keeping Garnett and Pierce delays any progression of this team. Even if both go, and even if the full $27 million comes off the books, the Celtics would get down to about a $49 million payroll, leaving them about $8-$9 million to spend on a free agent. Run down this list and tell me who you want with that kind of money?
Of course, being under the cap allows for other forms of flexibility, including the ability to make unbalanced trades and bid on players released under the Amnesty Provision. And if the Celtics do cut ties with Pierce, and if that does make Garnett quit, then the Celtics can try to take advantage of their financial flexibility.
However, they can do it next year without forcing the issue and possibly angering Garnett in the process. He holds all the cards right now, but he won’t next season. The Celtics can make whatever decisions they want about Paul Pierce, but they should do it independent of what they think Garnett might do. I say the Celtics roll with what they have one more year, shift the focus to the new core of young guys, and have another year of learning under KG and Pierce before both are gone… or at the very least back under radically different circumstances.