Toronto Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has said he won’t do anything crazy this year, however, pursuing a trade for the Nets 38-year-old future Hall-of-Fame veteran big man Kevin Garnett isn’t crazy and could just be the missing piece to a Raptors season on the verge of exceeding everyone’s expectations.
Kevin Garnett on AK getting traded and what it’s like right now: “When it rains it pours. That’s how I’m going to answer that.” #Nets
— Rod Boone (@rodboone) December 11, 2014
The Raptors currently reside atop the NBA’s Eastern Conference with a 16-6 record and a schedule that should permit them to stay in first place until after Christmas even without their All-Star DeMar DeRozan in the lineup. Toronto can make the case that they are Eastern Conference contenders already, but there has been a glaring hole in their early season success and it has already cost them a few key wins.
Toronto has been exposed by a number of teams under the boards and losing the rebounding battle has become an all too familiar occurrence. It isn’t usually significant against weaker competition, but most of those teams will not be in the playoff picture come April.
The 8-12 Nets have declared open season on their plus $90 million roster. Their best players are old, injury prone and very expensive – takers anyone? really anyone? To build this luxury tax generating machine, they have traded away their first round draft picks outright in 2016 and 2018 plus other teams can swap first round picks in 2015 and 2017. The Nets need to get future assets back if at all possible.
One player somewhat sliding under the radar in a seas of losses has been Garnett. At 38 Garnett is not the player he once was, but by grabbing 31.9 percent of the available defensive rebounds, he is third best in the Association this season and he still has the respect of the officials and other players in the league. He is still good for 8 points and 8 boards in 24 minutes off the bench and there are more than a few teams that could use a 6’11 veteran big man who could give them this much. With a $12 million expiring contract, his salary is well within the ability of most GMs to be able to fashion some sort of deal as well.
Standing in the way of Nets General Manager Billy King’s potential trade partners for Garnett is a rare NBA no trade clause. Garnett doesn’t have to accept a trade and there is little reason for him to join any team that he doesn’t think could be a contender and preferably a team he would have an important role on. Toronto might just have that covered. Garnett could backup Jonas Valanciunas at center and provide the Raptors some much needed rebounding off the bench – not to mention the potential impact a player like Garnett could have on a young center like Valanciunas. Garnett could – should – see himself as the missing piece in Toronto that takes the Raptors past his archrival of recent years – LeBron James.
Toronto has expiring contracts to send back. A combination of 2 of Landry Fields and/or Chuck Hayes and/or Tyler Hansbrough handles the monetary side. To entice the Nets rebuilding efforts, the Raptors could offer rookie center Lucas Nogueira (16th pick in 2013) or potentially their own 2016 first round draft pick (Toronto owns the Knicks 2016 pick). A mid to late first round pick in return for a veteran on an expiring deal is a lot in the current trade environment, however, Garnett is a unique player, the high price could and should be well worth it and Ujiri can likely be counted upon to lower the cost.
The mantra of developing your own players, building chemistry and staying the course once a team starts achieving a measure of success is the safe route and the Raptors might solve their rebounding issues on their own over the course of the season. However, bringing in a player of Garnett’s reputation while he is still producing is a calculated risk that could be the difference between a second round exit and a shot at the Finals. Ujiri has played on the edge of crazy before and making a move to acquire Garnett on an expiring deal just doesn’t seem all that crazy.