The Boston Celtics nearly never became championship contenders in 2007-2008. The 2007 summer is famously the offseason that the Celtics swung deals to acquire Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to pair with Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo to form a championship contender the next three seasons. That included winning the 2008 NBA championship in their first season together.
With that said, the Warriors had different plans The “We Believe” Warriors featured a lineup that they believed, no pun intended, had championship aspirations with one true superstar added to the mix. That superstar was seen as Garnett, who was ready to leave the Timberwolves after three straight seasons of missing the playoffs.
Had the Warriors pulled off this deal, a third team was confirmed to be a part of the deal. That was the Charlotte Hornets. Had this blockbuster happened, how much would history have changed?
The Trade Details
Golden State Warriors Receive: Kevin Garnett
Charlotte Hornets Receive: Jason Richardson
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: 2007 No. 8 overall pick, future first-round picks, and “other assets”
The trade headlined Kevin Garnett going to the Warriors to join a three-headed scoring trio of Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, and Steven Jackson. Andris Biedrins was a solid starting center in the league and with the addition of Garnett, the Warriors could have been viewed as a team that could contend with the top teams in the Western Conference.
Former General Manager Chris Mullin said that the Warriors were close to getting the deal done. A big contributor to the deal-making headway was the relationship that Davis and Garnett had with each other.
"It was basically done," said Mullin, via Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report. "I was doing an extension with [agent] Andy Miller on Kevin Garnett's deal. KG liked Baron enough, and we had talked enough. He said, 'Yo, I'll do it.'"
Davis was coming off a season that saw him average 20.1 points per game, 8.1 assists, and a league-leading 2.1 steals. Despite not making an All-Star appearance, the idea of playing with Davis, the emotional leader of the Warriors, was interesting enough to Garnett for him to support the decision. Let it be known that the amount of future first-round picks and “other assets” were never specified.
Warriors Owner Chris Cohan Drug His Feet
It turns out that the Warriors brass had all the intentions of making this deal go through. Mullin was on board and even the players, but the most important person in making the deal go through was owner Chris Cohan wrote Bucher.
“A 2007 draft-night three-team deal with the Timberwolves and Charlotte (then the Bobcats) would've sent Garnett to the Warriors, Richardson to the Bobcats, and picks and talent to the Timberwolves. It fell apart, Mullin says, when then-Warriors owner Chris Cohan dragged his feet and ultimately said no.”
Because of Cohan nixing the deal, it had even more repercussions. The information about the possibility of Jason Richardson being traded was leaked to the players. Former Warrior, Matt Barnes, said that a few of the players were “aware” of the plan. Because the trade fell through, it impacted the team’s chemistry moving forward.
“We were making moves to get KG, and then we traded J-Rich for Brandan Wright,” says Matt Barnes, one of the few players aware of Mullin’s plan at the time. “We won more games, but it just wasn’t the same anymore. It all shifted so quickly. The magic was gone.”
The Warriors were 42-40 in 2006-2007, but we're coming off defeating the No. 1 seeded Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs after making the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. The following year, the Warriors won 48 games but missed the playoffs. It appears that not making the trade hurts the team more than making the trade.
Warriors Projected Lineup If Trade Happened
PG: Baron Davis
SG: Monta Ellis
SF: Steven Jackson
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Andris Biedrins
As mentioned, Davis was coming off an All-Star caliber season despite not making the All-Star team. Ellis was coming off his second season in the league and 16.5 points per game, but his third year (2007-2008) saw him increase that to 20.2 points and 5.0 rebounds. Jackson had averaged 16.8 points with 4.6 assists the previous year.
Adding Garnett to the team would have been huge. Garnett had just averaged 22.4 points and 12.8 rebounds. He remained a top-10 player in the league and would have been surrounded by true talent for potentially the first time in his career. If you throw in the fact that the team was riding high momentum after upsetting a No. 1 seed in the playoffs, the Warrior's mentality was one intangible the rest of the league didn’t have.
Bobcats Projected Lineup If Trade Happened
PG: Raymond Felton
SG: Jason Richardson
SF: Gerald Wallace
PF: Nazr Mohammed
C: Emeka Okafor
The Hornets acquired Richardson regardless in the offseason and he became the leading scorer for the team the following season. The core of Raymond Felton, Gerald Wallace, and Emeka Okafor had remained. The only player that might have been up in the air for the starting lineup was Nazr Mohammed, who had the most experience as a forward from the previous season.
Felton was a younger guard at the time, while Okafor coming off his best overall season with 14.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Wallace was coming off a season that saw him average 18.1 points per game. Even with the addition of Richardson, who led the Hornets with 21.7 points the following season, the team only won 32 games.
Timberwolves Projected Lineup If Trade Happened
PG: Randy Foye
SG: Rashad McCants
SF: Marko Jaric
PF: Corey Brewer
C: Brandan Wright
In this scenario, the Timberwolves would be going complete teardown mode. When the Timberwolves originally traded Garnett, they received Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, and Ryan Gomes, who played significant minutes. In this scenario, Randy Foye, Marko Jaric, Rashad McCants would be the returning players with experience with Foye being the leading scorer at 10.1 points per game.
Corey Brewer entered the league as the No. 7 overall pick in 2007, while Brandan Wright was right behind Brewer at No. 8. With three backup caliber players and two rookies, the Timberwolves would have been in the position to nab the No. 1 overall pick for 2008. That pick would have potentially changed the landscape of the Timberwolves forever.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2008 was famously Derrick Rose, who fell to the Bulls by a complete lack of the draw. The Timberwolves were positioned to land that pick because the team won 22 games during the 2007-2008 season, but didn’t pick until No. 3, which was used on O.J. Mayo after Rose and Michael Beasley were selected. The Timberwolves ultimately traded Mayo for the rights to Kevin Love, but have famously been criticized for not taking Russell Westbrook, who fell to No. 4 to the Thunder.
The Timberwolves never made the playoffs with Love and then ended up trading Love to the Cavaliers for a package centered around Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. The team didn’t make the playoffs until 2018 and were mired in mediocrity. The same goes for the Hornets, who have made the playoffs just three times since 2002, all first-round playoff exits.
The real winners of the trade were the Celtics. With Garnett, Allen, and Pierce leading the way, the Celtics won the NBA title over the Lakers in 2008. The team made the semifinals the following year but returned to the NBA Finals in 2010 despite losing to the Lakers, who won their second title in a row. After that, the core made the Conference Finals in 2012 but famously lost to the LeBron James-led Miami Heat, which saw Allen jump ship and join the team the following year.
As for the Warriors, the core of Davis, Ellis, and Jackson remained, but the chemistry took a hit when Richardson was traded. After beating the Mavericks, the Warriors missed the playoffs five consecutive years. Davis left the Warriors after the 2007-2008 season, while Jackson was traded midway through the 2009-2010 season to the Hornets. Ellis stayed with the Warriors until he was traded to the Bucks midway through the 2011-2012 season.
The Warriors fell on good fortunes in 2009 when the team drafted Steph Curry and then Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, and Kevon Looney in the later years. With that said, Garnett screamed “anything is possible” when the confetti poured down when the Celtics won their title. That kind of mentality would have fit perfectly with the Warriors core of Davis, Ellis, and Jackson, so who knows how far that team truly could have gone.