Seven years ago today, the Minnesota Timberwolves agreed to trade Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics. It ended a disappointing era in Minnesota, and reignited Garnett’s career and revived the Celtics franchise.
In 12 seasons with the ‘Wolves, Garnett made it out of the first round of the playoffs just once – during the 2003-04 season, when the team reached the Western Conference Finals. KG was 30 years-old at the end of the 2006-07 season, and time was running out for him to win a championship. It was definitely not his fault. In his last season with the ‘Wolves, Garnett averaged 22.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.7 blocks per game. He played 39.4 minutes per game and shot 47.6 percent from the field.
During the summer of 2007, the Celtics were coming off a 24-win season and had missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons. They hadn’t won a championship since 1985-1986. On draft night, the Celtics acquired Ray Allen from the Seattle Supersonics. A month later, they acquired Garnett. In exchange for the former MVP, the Celtics sent the following to Minnesota: Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff and two draft picks.
With Garnett and Allen, plus Paul Pierce, the Celtics vaulted to the top of the Eastern Conference. In their first season together, the Celtics won 66 games and defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in six games in the NBA Finals. In the Game 6 clincher, Garnett scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. He also gave us this iconic moment immediately afterwards:
In the following season, Garnett missed the entire post-season with a knee injury. The Celtics lost in the second round. They would return to the Finals the following season, but lost a re-match to the Lakers in seven games. Last off-season, Garnett and Pierce were traded to the Brooklyn Nets.
Even though he only won one title in Boston, the trade drastically altered the career of not just Garnett, but Pierce and Allen, too. Before they teamed for the Celtics, they were all superstars in their own right, but were constantly nagged by the fact they’d never won a title. By accomplishing that goal together, it pushed their careers and historical standing into a different sphere.
For the ‘Wolves, the centerpiece of the trade was Jefferson. He didn’t disappoint. In his first season with the ‘Wolves, Jefferson started all 82 games and averaged 21.0 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. But he couldn’t shoulder the load Garnett did for so many years; the ‘Wolves were terrible. In Jefferson’s three seasons in Minnesota, the team won a combined 61 regular season, five fewer victories than KG’s debut season in Boston..
With Kevin Love emerging as the team’s next franchise cornerstone, Minnesota traded Jefferson to the Utah Jazz after the 2009-10 season. In the seven seasons since trading Garnett, the ‘Wolves haven’t returned to the playoffs and appear on the verge of trading their franchise player once again.
In Boston, the trade revived a franchise. In Minnesota, they’re still recovering and waiting for another era of success.
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