Kevin Garnett will undoubtedly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when the 38-year-old veteran decides to retire. However, the Brooklyn Nets would be in a better position if he calls it quits before this upcoming season.
While Garnett is a player all contending teams would love have due to his experience and leadership, the Nets should not be upset if he retires. Garnett experienced a huge decrease in production in his first season in Brooklyn, and what he brings to the team is simply not worth the $12 million he is owed in the 2014-2015 season.
As it stands right now, Garnett appears to be returning and is apparently excited about the Nets’ chances, but all that can change. With his long-time teammate Paul Pierce bolting Brooklyn to join the Washington Wizards, Garnett may be re-thinking his desire to return and collect one final paycheck.
If KG returns, Brooklyn keeps a player who brings mental and physical toughness, motivation, and stellar defense/rebounding to the table every time he takes the floor. At 38 years old, though, Garnett can no longer utilize any of those skills at an elite level. Last year, besides missing a great deal of games via injuries, Garnett was severely limited in terms of his minutes, and can only offer around 20 per game if the Nets want him to be somewhat effective in the playoffs. With Brooklyn’s dreadful salary cap and tax situation, Garnett’s production is nowhere close to what he would be earning, and if Brooklyn wants to climb out of their mess, getting Garnett off the books would be a giant step in the right direction.
In fact, although no one on the free agent market comes anywhere close to Garnett in terms of credentials, the Nets would be able to sign a player who would be worth his value. For example, while Brooklyn seems to be parting ways with big-man Andray Blatche, inking him to a contract at only a few million dollars per season would be a far better option than having Garnett earn $12 million for sitting on the bench for the majority of every game. The Nets re-signing Blatche does appear extremely unlikely, but there are other players currently available who could fill Garnett’s shoes at a much lower cost.
Brooklyn would have to replace Garnett if he chooses to retire through free agency or by means of a trade, because the Nets really do not have any in-house options. Mirza Teletovic and Andrei Kirilenko have the ability to play big alongside Brook Lopez, but those two guys are natural small forwards, and a combination of either one of them with Lopez would be a disaster for the Nets’ rebounding capabilities. Mason Plumlee is a promising young player, but is best suited as a center playing behind Lopez. Cory Jefferson would be the only true power forward on the roster, and he has yet to play a game in the NBA after being this year’s Mr. Irrelevant in the draft. Thus, Garnett retiring would give the Nets more financial flexibility to bring in a young, talented big-man who could develop under new coach Lionel Hollins and his system that revolves around defense and post scoring.
Losing Garnett to retirement would be a slight blow to the Nets, as losing one of the greatest players of all time is never ideal. However, if Garnett does not return for one last run, the Nets would actually be a better position.
Jordan Berkowitz is a Brooklyn Nets and NBA writer for RantSports.com