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T'wolves taking steps to assess Garnett's trade value

Posted: Monday June 18, 2007 4:08PM; Updated: Monday June 18, 2007 5:06PM
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Kevin Garnett can opt out of his contract and become a free agent after next season.
Kevin Garnett can opt out of his contract and become a free agent after next season.
AP
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Are the Minnesota Timberwolves moving closer to trading Kevin Garnett?

Sources from several NBA teams say the Wolves have been making calls to gauge Garnett's trade value throughout the league. The most provocative conversation of which I've heard has been with the Phoenix Suns, who are said to be ambivalent about moving 24-year-old Amaré Stoudemire to Minnesota in a package for Garnett, 31.

A league source understood the talks with Phoenix to be in a preliminary stage, saying, "They're not hot yet.''

It may be that the Wolves are merely assessing Garnett's value amid speculation by rival teams that they've kept him too long. Some league executives feel that Garnett's worth has diminished after absorbing 11 years of mileage while proving unable to carry the Wolves to the playoffs since 2003-04, when they reached the Western Conference finals with KG as league MVP alongside Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell.

Yet Garnett recently is coming off one of his best seasons. After being slowed by a knee problem in 2005-06, the 6-foot-11 Garnett recovered to lead the NBA in its all-around "efficiency'' statistic while averaging 22.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.2 steals.

Garnett enters the upcoming season with leverage: He could opt out of his contract next summer, foregoing his guaranteed salary of $23 million in 2008-09 in order to join a contender as a free agent or by forcing a sign-and-trade.

At the very least, it makes sense for the Timberwolves to find out how much he is worth, given Garnett's contract status. They are obligated to explore all potential options to improve after winning 65 games the past two years. They can couch their Garnett discussions as an evaluation process they undertake every summer.

But Minnesota's queries have more of an edge this year. My understanding is that the calls about Garnett are being made by GM Jim Stack, which enables Minnesota VP Kevin McHale to maintain deniability on possible trades. It allows McHale to honestly say that he hasn't talked to other teams about Garnett.

There is a belief among his NBA colleagues that McHale remained with the Timberwolves this season to make the decision on Garnett's future once and for all. If Garnett is to be moved, then McHale will take the hit for doing it, which would allow McHale's successor (rumored to be assistant GM Fred Hoiberg) to start fresh without being held responsible for dealing the best player in franchise history.

Stack is more than up to the job of assessing Garnett's value. He is one of the league's promising young executives after serving as assistant VP for four years to Jerry Krause during the Bulls' championship era.

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