In response to BCSP's comment:
Would Kevin Garnett put the Clippers over the top?
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The Hook looks at a potential Kevin Garnett trade to the Clippers in terms of what would be gained and lost for L.A. Plus, the All-Star Game's best line and more.
The tick tock will determine whether Kevin Garnett gets traded to the L.A. Clippers by Thursday's NBA trade deadline. It'll take the Clippers' braintrust convincing Danny Ainge to pursue such a deal, and it'll take someone -- Ainge, Chris Paul, Vinny Del Negro, Blake Griffin, a Google Map readout showing the distance between Staples Center and Malibu -- to convince KG to waive his no-trade clause.
But what determines whether such a trade would be worth it for the Clippers depends on how much the Ticket can improve L.A. within the next couple of years.
Right now, the Clippers are No. 3 in the West. They trail San Antonio by four games and the Thunder by 1.5 games. A path to the Finals would almost certainly go through Oklahoma City at some point, and also possibly through S.A. To beat either team will require not just the strong offense we've come to expect from Chris Paul's teams, but really good defense. OKC and S.A. are No. 1 and No. 5 in offense in the NBA, respectively. Any defense would be tested when facing that. In particular, the Thunder have the best offense since the 2009-10 Suns. It's a powerful beast led by the most aggressive creator in the league (Russell Westbrook) and the purest scorer of his generation (Kevin Durant). Even great defense have real trouble slowing the Thunder. And many would hesitate to call L.A.'s defense great. That's where K.G. comes in.
But note that the Clips' defense has actually been really good these season. It ranks No. 7 in the league, barely lagging the team's No. 6 offense. According to NBA.com/stats, L.A.'s defense has been particularly good after a day of rest, giving up 98.1 points per 100 possessions as opposed to 105 on the second game of a back-to-back. There will be no back-to-backs in the playoffs. As it the case with most teams, the bench's defense has better numbers than do the starters -- a lot of that likely has to do with the competition.
Jordan, the center that Garnett would replace, is known as a defender, but has struggled since signing a massive contract before the 2011-12 season. This year, the Clippers' defense is seven points per 100 possessions better when DAJ is on the bench. The number is similar for fellow starter Blake Griffin, but Blake offers something other than defense when on the court: elite offense. If Jordan isn't helping the defense when on the court, he's not doing much.
Meanwhile in Boston, the Celtics are nine points per 100 possessions better on defense when KG is in the game. The Boston defense is night and day: beyond elite with KG, worse than average without him. And he plays enough to have made it the top defense in the league. But the proposed trade isn't just Jordan for KJ: Eric Bledsoe would go back to the Celtics, too. And Bledsoe has had a positive defensive impact on the Clips, though that could be the bench role talking. The popular wisdom is that if Chauncey Billups is productive, Bledsoe is less important this season. But after only 100-odd minutes, it's not remotely clear that Billups is going to be able to play a major role. That's a dice roll for the Clippers. If they shoot craps, we're going to see more Jamal Crawford handling the ball or Willie Green in action than most folks want.
I don't know whether Garnett can help the Clippers stop the Thunder, because I don't know if the Thunder can be stopped by anyone. But it's clear that if Billups can play well enough to keep Green's minutes limited and Crawford's focus on playing off the ball, Garnett would represent a massive improvement for L.A.'s defense and likely also its offense. If the goal is to gun for the top right now, few realistic trades would be more helpful than this one
KG will put them in the W finals agains OKC...or whoever..