What if Kevin Garnett never went to the Boston Celtics? Would the Celtics have won the 2008 championship? Despite Paul Pierce winning the Finals MVP, there is a valid argument that Garnett should have won it instead. The big three of Pierce, Garnett, and Ray Allen were a dynasty dream their first year together as the Celtics won the championship, as well as made an appearance in the Finals in 2010.
When Garnett was on the trade market in Minnesota, it appears that the Lakers had a deal in place. The Lakers brass essentially shook on the deal when they were done talking to the Timberwolves. However, a close relationship between two friends destroyed the dream duo of Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.
This trade would have shaken up the later half of the 2000s as both the Celtics and Lakers won the last three championships from 2008 to 2010. Both teams came out on top, including the Lakers over the Celtics in the 2010 Finals. Then again, what would have happened if this trade went down?
The Trade Details
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Kevin Garnett
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum
It had been three years since Garnett won the league MVP and led the Timberwolves to the best record in the Western Conference. The team had missed the playoffs in three consecutive seasons after making the Conference Finals and Garnett grew tired of getting beat. It was then when Garnett asked for a trade. Garnett entered the 2007 offseason with a steady slash line of 22.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.7 blocks.
The Lakers offered a trade package of Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. Odom was coming off a season that saw him average 15.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. Bynum was coming off his second season in the league after being drafted out of high school with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. Bynum had just averaged 7.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 21.9 minutes per game. This trade would have essentially transformed Minnesota’s frontcourt in exchange for Garnett.
A Former Friendship Played A Role
According to the article, head coach Phil Jackson said that Dr. Jerry Buss came to him and said that he had a handshake agreement with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. He claimed that Garnett was going to come to Los Angeles; however, GM Kevin McHale had not confirmed it. However, Celtics GM Danny Ainge and McHale were close friends and former teammates that had reached out to McHale about a trade.
Here is the related excerpt from KG, the Oral History, Part 2:
Danny Ainge, Celtics GM: Because Kevin and I were such close friends, we had numerous conversations over the years [about Garnett]. We realized that Paul [Pierce] and KG would be a great combination. We thought that they really complemented each other well. So we discussed the possibility of Paul going to Minnesota or KG coming to Boston, like which way is the best way to do it.
Phil Jackson, Lakers head coach, 1999-2004; 2005-2011: When I realized that [Garnett] was available and wanted to leave Minnesota, I put a big push on (to acquire him).
Andy Miller: Cleveland was involved. They were a distant third in the whole thing.
Glen Taylor: L.A. really wanted him. Well, I didn't know if I wanted him in the West. I thought I was getting better players. I thought L.A could not give me the players that Boston did.
The Lakers offered a package built around multi-skilled forward Lamar Odom and 19-year-old center Andrew Bynum, a promising second-year player who would eventually become an All-Star. Odom had a history of flaky behavior, however, and Bynum was unproven.
The Celtics' package was built around another talented, but still-developing young center, Al Jefferson, along with several other young players and draft picks.
Phil Jackson: Dr. [Jerry] Buss came to me and said, "I have a handshake agreement with Taylor, that he's going to come to L.A. But McHale hasn't concurred yet." So I said, "Well that's a good excuse." You always, as an owner, say, "I'll do this, but ..." So I kept that hope out there, that he was gonna be a part of the Laker organization.
Taylor: Odom, I was a little afraid of. I thought Bynum was gonna be a star.
Miller: I think that what McHale was looking for, on top of picks, was a core young piece, and he was infatuated with Al Jefferson at the time.
Glen Taylor: It became the Lakers, and it became Boston. And they both said, what does [Garnett] want to get paid? And I told them what he wants to get paid. I told them the kind of contract. And those two teams said they would do it.
Ainge said that he had numerous conversations about Garnett over the years. Ainge believed that the duo of Pierce and Garnett would be a great conversation. He also talked about Pierce going to the Timberwolves, but in the end, he was able to keep Pierce and bring in Garnett.
With that said, Garnett confirmed that he was nearly a Laker, but he had a different story.
“I was pretty close [to going to LA] to be honest,” Garnett said. “What disturbed me about the whole Laker situation was Kobe [Bryant] and Phil [Jackson] at the time. They was pretty bad. That situation was something I didn’t want to get into. It was my choice. There was a lot going on and I didn’t want to be a part of it.”
Garnett said that the situation between Bryant and Jackson was a pretty bad relationship. He didn’t want to get caught up in that spat, so he preferred to not be a part of it, so who knows if Garnett also had a say in this after the fact that Ainge and McHale were so close.
Lakers Projected Lineup If Trade Happened
PG: Derek Fisher
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Luke Walton
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Vladimir Radmanovic
Odom was more of a bench player that finished games with the Lakers, but at the time, he was considered a starter. With Odom out, it would move Luke Walton into more of a starting role. Walton was coming off a season where he started and played over 30 minutes per game, where he averaged 11.4 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and shot 38.7% from three-point range. These aren’t bad numbers for a small forward.
Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant would hold down the backcourt with little issues. Bryant was coming off a season that saw him average 31.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. Pairing him with Garnett would have been a fearsome duo. Garnett was a better player than Pau Gasol and that is no knock on Gasol because he is a Hall of Famer in his own right. That is just how good KG was at the time.
As for the center position, it could be up in the air. Vladimir Radmanovic had started 15 games the season before. IT’s just hard to think that the Lakers would be okay with starting Kwame Brown. The Lakers could have brought Smush Parker back and gone small with Parker and Fisher at guards, Bryant and Walton at forwards, and Garnett at the center. However, Garnett was a better power forward, so by default, the starting job would have been between Radmanovic or Brown.
Timberwolves Projected Lineup If Trade Happened
PG: Randy Foye
SG: Corey Brewer
SF: Marko Jaric
PF: Lamar Odom
C: Andrew Bynum
Randy Foye entered the 2007-2008 season as the undisputed point guard after a solid rookie season that saw him average 10.1 points per game. Foye was the 2006 No. 7 overall pick and was given the reins to the team. Beside him was former Florida standout Corey Brewer, who was coming out of college as a two-time NCAA champion. Brewer was entering his rookie season but was coming off from being the No. 7 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.
There weren't a lot of options at the small forward outside of Jaric, so he would be the default starter. Adding Odom and Bynum to the mix would have given the team some solid youth moving forward. Think about it, Foye, Brewer, and Bynum could have been the core moving forward. With the right development, maybe an added superstar down the road could have seen this team develop like the modern-day Suns.
Bynum had real potential during this time. Foye and Brewer were unproven, but more importantly, the Timberwolves would have been in the lottery regardless, but with youthful talent. The Timberwolves won only 22 games in 2007-2008. This team probably would have won just as many but would have given the team a true core. Kevin Love was drafted in 2008. A combination of Foye, Brewer, Love, and Bynum over time could have developed into something competitive.
In the end, this ended up working for everyone, but the Timberwolves. The Lakers kept Odom and Bynum, who both played pivotal roles during the team’s run to the Finals three consecutive years from 2008 to 2010, which included rings in 2009 and 2010. Odom ended up winning Sixth Man of the Year in 2011, but his career was later derailed once he found out that the Lakers tried trading him to New Orleans for Chris Paul.
As for Bynum, he gave the Lakers some great years from 2007 to 2012, including his best season in 2011-2012 where he averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds. However, after that year, Bynum lasted just two more years, playing one year for the Cavaliers and one year for the Pacers. Bynum hasn’t been in the league since 2013 and is 34 years old.
The Celtics won the championship in 2008 by defeating the Lakers in the Finals. Garnett averaged 18.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks. As for the Lakers, the team traded for Pau Gasol midway through the year, who ended up being the key missing link to the team’s dynasty runs. Garnett would play for the Celtics until 2013, where the Celtics would trade him to the Nets with Piece and Jason Terry for an abundance of picks that changed the Nets’ organization forever.
As for Minnesota, the team missed the playoffs up until the 2017-2018 season. The players the team received in the deal never panned out. Al Jefferson gave the Timberwolves the best production, including 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds in his first season. He would replicate that success in year two, but played only three years altogether with zero trips to the playoffs. Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, and Theo Ratliff were good complementary players, but the team had no true stars.
The Timberwolves eventually made the lottery and got Kevin Love, who evolved into a league-leading rebounder, but even he was not on the same scale as Garnett. As for the two first-round picks? Jonny Flynn is one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history, while Wayne Ellington was a decent starter in the league, but no star that could leave Minnesota out of the gutter.