OK, so let me see …
These are the undeniable traits of Kevin Garnett, the player the Celtics are reported to be on the verge of acquiring. (Update: The Associated Press is now reporting that the deal is done.)
So why, then, do I feel slightly sick to my stomach?
I'm fairly confident that Al Jefferson, no matter how great he may become, will never be as good for as long as Garnett has been. It's not a put-down, but it is being realistic. Over the next few years, KG will be and upgrade over Al. Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen is a better trio over the next three years than Jefferson, Pierce, and Allen.
At the same time, how much of an upgrade would he be? And would trading for Garnett and extending him at his $25-million-a-year max be better than keeping Al, signing him to a $13 million-to-$15-million-a-year contract (which would be at/near the max that his NBA tenure allows), and still being able to use Theo Ratliff's contract to add another impact veteran?
If the Celtics owners take on Garnett and agree to an extension in the 5-year/$125 million range, they are clearly ready to pay the luxury tax for at least the next three years, and probably the next five.
But if the C's are willing to pay the luxury tax to take on Garnett, in my eyes, they should be willing to pay the luxury tax by signing Al to a max contract while adding another $10 million to $13 million veteran impact player using Theo Ratliff's deal and lesser chips.
Basically, it comes down to this:
Would I rather have Kevin Garnett, or a combination of Al Jefferson and Mike Bibby (Or Al and Nene, or Al and Marcus Camby, or Al and Andrei Kirilenko)?
And that's the multi-million dollar question right there. It's not just Al for KG. It's what you are getting for the money you are willing to spend, how high you are willing to let the payroll get, and what the deal prevents you from possibly doing in the future.
Sure, there's some risk involved in going into the season looking to use Theo's contract in a deadline deal. There are no sure things in these situations. You don't know if the Celtics would be able to get an impact vet combining Theo's contract with young guys (Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair). But usually, as the trade deadline approaches and teams realize they aren't going anywhere that season, they become amenable to giving up decent players for expiring contracts such as Theo's, combined with upside guys like Gerald.
If so, in my eyes, it may be better to have Al Jefferson giving 80 percent of KG and be able to add a Bibby or a Nene, than having just a KG alone for the same price. Add in the fact that Al is 9 years younger, getting better offensively and defensively, rebounded at the same rate as Garnett last year (both guys averaged 15.6 boards per 48 minutes) and will be in the league long after Garnett is enjoying his retirement on the shores of some sun-drenched paradise, and it makes it even harder to swallow.
Sure, the trio of Garnett, Pierce and Allen is sexy, and would definitely be the best 1-2-3 punch in the league, but is it enough to win the championship? Does it make the C's that much of a better team in the short term to be able to overcome the obvious long-term consequences? And does it even allow them to get better 1-2 years from now than keeping Al would allow?
Maybe it does. I don't know. But I don't see the ability to add significantly to the KG-PP-RA trio (which, let me repeat, is a fantastic threesome), and if they don't bring home a championship, it will have been a total failure.
But it's clear that Danny Ainge is now willing to cash in all his chips and go for broke, knowing that failure brings his job to an end and leaves someone else to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately, lifelong fans don't have that luxury. We have to deal with the consequences long after the current coach, GM, and even owners have moved on.
Then again, if Pierce, KG and Allen make Green 17 a reality, I'll be the first to offer a mea culpa. I would like nothing more than for that to happen. But pardon my trepidation as the Celtics go all in, fully embracing this do-or-die gamble.
One thing is certain, the upcoming season just got a whole lot more interesting.