- The Season's Over -

Revisionist History – What if Boston Hadn’t Traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen?

January 15, 2009

Doc Rivers and Al Jefferson in Darker/Brighter Times

Al Jefferson and Doc Rivers Photo Credit: Icon SMI

I have two confessions to make. First, I was a bigger Kevin Garnett fan before he was clapping his hands in point guard’s faces, sitting down for painfully forced conversations with Bill Russell and spouting canned “anything is possible” clichés at the top of his lungs. He may have been miserable during his last years in Minnesota, but we were in it together. Now he’s on his own ego island, a curious and disappointing development for a man that had been one of the most pathos worthy athletes in sports history.

Second, I was a bigger fan of the Boston Celtics two years ago before they were arrogantly strutting their championship stuff in arenas across the country. I had adopted the team of relatively unknown youngsters as my favorite to watch in the NBA. I felt like I was on the bandwagon, blog and all, before the rest of the basketball world had embraced a squad that was years away from serious title contention, but one that would absolutely get there. The Celts had youth, athleticism, personality and explosiveness at every position. Of all the teams in the NBA, Boston had the most sheer potential – it was coming out their ears, so much that Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge didn’t know what to do with it. The group was a hell of a lot of fun to watch and speculate about. They were fun to be a fan of.

And then Danny Ainge blew it up. After falling in love with that deep, promising lineup and seeing some of those major pieces thriving, both in Boston and elsewhere, I can’t help but wonder what could have been.

I also have two disclaimers. First, acquiring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett was absolutely the right thing to do. In the NBA a bird in the hand is worth five in the bush. If Ainge had kept the core intact I don’t think the young kids had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning a title in the next two or three years. It would have been a long-term project along the lines of the current Portland Trailblazers with no guarantees of success. When you have a legit shot at a title you take it, no questions asked. Rings are what this game is all about. Second, there’s an undeniable butterfly effect to take into account here. I acknowledge that we have no way of knowing what other moves would have been made, what contracts would have been signed and how drafts would have shaken down in the alternate universe where Ray Allen is still struggling futilely in Oklahoma and Kevin Garnett is still toiling away in the Twin Cities.

With all of that said, it’s not hard to see the Celtics sans KG and Jesus Shuttleworth being the most exciting young team in the East.

Breaking down the Celtics Bizarro World roster after the jump…

Starting Lineup:

PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Paul Pierce
SF: Jeff Green
PF: Al Jefferson
C: Kendrick Perkins

The Young Boston CelticsThe roster would be stacked with skill from top to bottom, starting with the backcourt. ETB favorite Rajon “Big Hands” Rondo would be manning the point and running the break with some real horses, guys who can finish at every position. There’s no doubt that this team would put up more points, even if they gave up just as many more on the other end. It’s true that Rondo’s maturation would likely not have been as accelerated, but it’s hard not to see him still developing into one of the best two-way points in the league. He would still be playing alongside super stud Paul Pierce, who has proven that with proper motivation he can be a leader on both ends of the floor as well – we now know the guy is a winner.

Pierce is the Celts current SF, but I still think the pick sent to Seattle would have been Jeff Green for Boston. He would likely have come off the bench last season, but the Celtics would be starting the versatile Green this season, who has been thriving in Oklahoma City at both forward positions. In December he put up 18 points, 7 boards, 1.3 threes with nearly 1 block and 1 steal on a strong 49% FGs. The 6-9, 22-year-old out of Georgetown is a steady defender with the range on offense to stretch opposing defenses (he’s shooting nearly 40% from three-point land on the season) and has proven he can play a solid second or third fiddle.

Green’s ability to play well without the ball would be a necessary skill because he would be lined up alongside the best offensive power forward in the NBA, one Al Jefferson. No big man in the Association has finer low-post moves than Big Al, with the possible exception of the aging Tim Duncan. Kevin Garnett is the superior defender by leaps and bounds, but with the ball Jefferson dominates the low block, draws fouls, splits the double-team and takes charge of the offense down the stretch like KG never could. The offense would be running through Al Jeff and Pierce, and that duo would be formidable to say the least.

Down low the solid but unspectacular Kendrick Perkins would still be hitting the glass and staying behind to make up for his inexperienced teammates’ mistakes. He’s offensively challenged, but that makes Perk the ideal compliment to Jefferson down low. He would be providing his same unselfish and complimentary play to a lineup that would have ball-handling and scoring duties dominated by Rondo, Pierce, Green and Big Al.

Former Celtic Gerald Green

Gerald Green Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Off the Bench:

PG: Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Gerald Green, Wally Szczerbiak
PF: Ryan Gomes
C: Leon Powe

Assuming nobody was brought in, after the thoroughly mediocre Wally Szczerbiak the Celtics second unit would be severely lacking in veteran presence. They wouldn’t be short on offense or explosiveness, though. Delonte West has proven this season that he’s more than capable of starting at guard in the League, but Rivers never seemed to have the confidence in him that Cleveland has shown. No matter, West would be a fantastic utility guard off the bench, capable of handling the ball when necessary, manning up on D and providing an offensive spark – he’s currently averaging over 12 points, 3 boards and 3.5 assists with 1.8 threes and 1.5 steals on a steady 46% FGs and 83% FTs while knocking down over 40% of his three-point attempts. Perhaps more impressive than the emergence of Delonte, and certainly more improbable, has been Sebastian Telfair‘s play in Minnesota. The 23-year-old point has matured, developing into a quality pass-first backup point (even if he still can’t shoot the ball). He’s still not a great player, but Bassy has been better than I ever thought he would be.

On the wings the trio of Tony Allen, Gerald Green and Ryan Gomes would be providing a little bit of everything. This season Allen has shown some quality defense and put his scoring on the back burner, but this is still the guy who was a revelation filling in for the injured Pierce two seasons ago, averaging 20.8 points, 5.2 boards and 3.4 assists on 50+% FGs in that fateful January when he shredded his knee. Ryan Gomes is a young man who plays like a seasoned veteran and can do a little bit of everything: scoring, rebounding, defense, outside shooting, whatever the team needs. And of course, my favorite bust Gerald “Birthday Cake” Green could still be draining threes and flushing nasty dunks on the break. Granted, this team would be extremely thin up front in terms of defense, but if they still landed sparkplug Leon Powe Boston would also have energy and rebounding coming from their reserves.

No, Boston wouldn’t have won a title yet. They would still be must-see TV in my book though, and they would still be a playoff team out East. A starting lineup of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Jeff Green, Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins is nothing to sneeze at, especially with the likes of West, G. Green, Gomes, Allen, Powe, Telfair and Szczerbiak coming off the bench. With Boston looking more elderly and creaky by the day, the future of this franchise for 2010 and beyond would undoubtedly be brighter, that’s for sure.

It’s impossible to speculate exactly how the Celtics drafts and roster would have shaped in the last two seasons. Even if it had worked my way there’s no telling if Boston would have found any more success than they had before acquiring KG and Ray Ray – but as Jake said, isn’t it pretty to think so?

Related Reading:
- Kevin Garnett Packs His Bags
- Five Reasons to Watch the Boston Celtics
- ETB’s Take on the Ray Allen Trade

19 Comments »Posted by Andrew Thell on Jan. 15, 2009 at 1:20 am in ETB Articles, NBA

19 Responses

great write up. i’m a huge celtics fan. i wanted to keep big al at all costs. then when the trade went down for kg….hell, it’s kg. thenk they got the ring so all was right with the world. but still, big al is gonna a beast in this league for a very long time to come.

Posted by: josh q public on January 15th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

go back even further and say what if the C’s didnt pull off the trade for telfair, then you have brandon roy in that mix, furthermore, go back even further and say pierce didnt block his trade for a draft pick then you have a starting lineup of

pg: Chris Paul (who the c’s were set to take with the pick they were gonna trade the truth for)
sg:brandon roy
sf:jeff green
pf:al jefferson
c:kendrick perkins

and the bench

pg:Delonte West
sg:Tony Allen
Sf:Gerald Green, Wally, Scal
PF:Ryan Gomes, Leon powe
C:Raef Lafreantz

Posted by: papa irish on January 15th, 2009 at 1:38 pm

i never understood that telfair deal. just gross. that team you got up there. thats a team i could live with. al jeff is so much better than david west and with brandon roy too? goodness!

Posted by: josh q public on January 15th, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Doc came out and said they wouldve taken Yi with the 5th pick had they kept it, so Jeff Green not so much.

Posted by: Carl Spackler on January 15th, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Flim flam. Jeff Green very much.

Posted by: Andrew Thell on January 15th, 2009 at 4:04 pm

The celtics would be much less hated thats for sure. I am a Raptors fan and some things these current Celtics do disgust me. Why dunk with 4 seconds left up four with possession?

Besides that, this would have been a very intriguing team to watch. There seems to be alot of athleticism and offense, but where would the defense come from? This team would have its growing pains, but in a 5-7 year window, I think it would have been a great team.

It would also be interesting to consider what other teams would have done in response to the non-trades. For example, I think Toronto would have won the Atlantic if the Boston trades did not happen and I don’t think they would have traded for O’Neal this year. I also think Philly would not have pulled the trigger for Elton Brand.

Posted by: Dino Gunner on January 15th, 2009 at 4:27 pm

papa irish – it’s interesting to think about, but I’m not sure the logic works. If they had gotten Chris Paul, they would have had a better regular season and wouldn’t have been in position to draft Roy. Same goes with Green. Adding one new player changes the whole draft status. That’s the problem with thinking of ‘what if’s'…..

Posted by: Snoopy2006 on January 15th, 2009 at 4:54 pm

i doubt rondo would have developed along the same path if he didn’t have ray allen tutoring him on the intricacies of the jump shot. plus, that one year of being surrounded by battle tested vets and the deep playoff run to the championship really tempered rondo into an all-star worthy guard.

furthermore, it seems inconceivable that the Truth would have accepted his role as a “perimeter stopper” if alpha dog KG hadn’t been roaming the paint. i think it is safe to say that pierce’s development as a player would have stagnated without the big two and Posey.

as for KG’s rap sheet, i think it goes back pretty far: szcerbiak (sucker punch in practice), rick rickert (2nd rounder schooled kg in practice, got punched for it, needed stitches), peeler, mcdyess (threw the ball and ran backwards swinging)…

it’s just more noticeable now that he is on national tv all the time. jerryd bayless, marco bellinelli, zaza, lamarcus, tim duncan, etc…

Posted by: ezra crow on January 15th, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Blazer fan here. Perhaps Darius Miles could have made this squad in the preseason, too. – SS.

Posted by: snot snail on January 15th, 2009 at 7:22 pm

interesting post, i too loved Big Al and the rest of the kids pre-KG/Ray, despite the losses, but i think it is a HUGE stretch to assume that they would be a playoff team by now with that roster. pierce would have most likely forced a trade, Tony Allen & Gerald Green have yet to prove they can be anything close to reliable in this league, and there would be zero size beyond Perk + Al.

i continuously think back to 2001, wondering what would have happened if they kept Joe Johnson instead of Kedrick, and drafted Tony Parker or Gilbert or Gerald Wallace instead of Joe Forte (ugh)… and let’s not forget in 04 if Ainge had the chance he would have drafted Robert Freakin Swift and we never would have gotten Big Al in the first place.

but playing ‘what if’ is fun, though sometimes infuriating. no complaints here with how things turned out. now, all i can ask for is more Bill Walker. I’d rather see him in there than Baby or TA.

Posted by: andrew on January 15th, 2009 at 7:32 pm

No way Gerald Green is still on that team, no matter its incarnation.

Posted by: Justin on January 15th, 2009 at 9:30 pm

This is probably THE most inexplicable piece of writing on the Celtics. Ever. The reader comments that follow it are even more head shaking.

Playing the “what if” game is silly in itself, but to declare yourself a fan of a team that lost 18 in a row rather than the current one? To say “The Celts had youth, athleticism, personality and explosiveness at every position” in 2007-08? Do you watch basketball? You got to be kidding me, right?

“I was a bigger fan of the Boston Celtics two years ago before they were arrogantly strutting their championship stuff in arenas across the country”

This is the NBA, name one recent champion that hasn’t been “arrogant”. Between Miami’s gigantic championship rings, Detroit carrying around “championship belts”, and Shaq simply being Shaq (which is 100% arrogant), that leaves only the Spurs as your Classy Champions. And nobody likes them.

Finally, your issues about Garnett are simply stupid. He’s an over the top personality, but nothing is contrived. You also need to remember that simply his presence on this team turned your “explosive and exciting” young C’s into a tough, defensive minded unit. Rondo, Powe, Davis, Perkins all would rot away in basketball mediocrity if that trade wasn’t made. Either that, or Pierce would have shot himself.

Posted by: Classless Concepts on January 16th, 2009 at 12:49 am

You’ve just described the team that lost 19 straight + Jeff Green.

The Celts would be terrible if they didn’t do the trades, they’d be on the level of Minnesota/Seattle with all that ‘young talent’.

Pierce would be traded, Ainge and Pierce said as much themselves, Doc would be gone after another failure of a season, Ainge would either be gone or coaching the team.

Also, your lineup isn’t accurate, Pierce is traded, they would have drafted Yi instead of Jeff Green, Rondo/West would be yanked in and out of the lineup, Green and Telfair stink so they’re probably replaced by better talent. Still this would just be a horrible team.

As for your KG commment, did you watch any of the crap he did in Minny? He was clapping his hands in Steve Nash’s face back at the beginning of the decade. This is not some new act he’s doing, he’s always been like this.

Posted by: kevin on January 16th, 2009 at 12:56 am

Wow, wow, wow where the hell do I begin? First off I am glad a few people have caught on to how stupid this argument is. I question whether you are even a true Celtics fan? The brash swagger that this team has is nothing compared to the Celtics of the 80′s. You think KG is bad maybe you never watched Larry Bird play. Guess what, he was a sonofabitch who got in everyones face. But just like KG he demanded the same intensity from his teammates and he got it.

To think that a team with the 2nd worst record in the league and possession of an 18 game losing streak would actually be competitive is delusional thinking.

Perhaps you simply prefer losing and wish the Celtics still sucked because then you can wallow in your loathe and self pity reminding yourself how great of a fan you are.

The only good player sent over for the KG trade was Al Jefferson. Sorry but Gomes, Green, and Telfair either can’t play defense or can’t play at all.

Tony Allen is stiff, as is Szczerbiak. Tony play well for a short stretch of games but that was it. He sucks, plain and simple.

And anyone who followed the team knows that we were going to draft Yi and not Jeff Green. And that Pierce would was going to demand a trade if we didn’t acquire veteran talent.

Yea we would have had some young talent. But guess what, teams with young talent simply don’t win championships in this league. You need veterans who can play defense. Which we wouldn’t have had.

I could keep going on about how ridiculous this article is but I don’t have the time to refute every single stupid point you made.

Posted by: Neil on January 16th, 2009 at 3:25 am

KG’s “anything is possible!” in the post-game, on-court interview at the NBA Finals was more contrived than Paul Pierce feigning serious injury every time he hits the floor; that’s saying a lot.

Posted by: Brian Spencer on January 16th, 2009 at 4:43 am

I’m pretty sure the author knows how futile the “what if” game is…and you read it anyways so really…how bad was it? get off his back. interesting article! if you dont want to play the always-fun although pointless game of what-if…dont bother reading an article entitled “what if…” do you think we really care to read you complain…

Posted by: jp on January 16th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

The bottom line is that the Celtics unit you describe above would not be successful because they would not have played defense. Assuming Paul Pierce stayed — even though he said he would have preferred a trade — the combination would not be defensively sound enough to compete for anything close to an NBA title. Despite his offensive prowess, Al Jefferson is still below average on the defensive level.

Posted by: Jay on January 16th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

when they traded al jefferson for KG, i was actually a little disappointed because i had fallen in love with A.J. and felt that the Celtics were better off keeping him since his numbers were pretty much the same, if not better, than KG’s. Plus, he was younger, cheaper, and he was ours.

But I was wrong.

The difference between KG and Al Jefferson is so vast they might as well be playing different sports. KG is so much better than Big Al that it’s not even funny. KG is the best defender in the league in my book, and his passing and rebounding are superb too. No, he’s not the scoring threat that Big Al is and he won’t take that big shot in crunch time, but what he does do in crunch time is grab every big rebound and play lock down defense.

As for the “arrogance” thing, let’s not blow it out of proportion, okay? Every player in the nba is arrogant. they all punch their chests, pop their shirts, hang on the rim too long, etc. it’s just that people HATE when champions do it (especially champions from boston.)

and yes, i think KG clapped his hands in one point guard’s face this season and it was splashed all over the internet and ESPN. Truthfully, since everyone in the league started whining about their arrogance, the C’s really have toned it down. they rarely even complain about foul calls anymore. it would be great if somebody noticed this and pointed it out, since everybody is so quick to point out the negative stuff.

as for the “what if” lineup, it looks nice on paper, but man, was that a bad team when they had a very similar lineup pre-KG. so even adding Jeff Green to the mix, and taking into consideration another year of seasoning for the c’s younger players, this is a bad, bad basketball team that is incapable of playing playoff-level defense and seriously bereft of leadership. (yes i love paul pierce, but as a leader, by himself, he was never able to rally a team together like KG)

Posted by: dave on January 16th, 2009 at 1:29 pm

health and defense would be the only issue with that pre-kg line up. if pierce (or whoever the c’s would get for pierce in a trade) and big al are healthy, along with the #5 pick, the team would have no problem scoring. the celtics are who they are now because they have the league’s best defender.

Posted by: russ on January 16th, 2009 at 8:50 pm

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