Who Was More Valuable? The Big Ticket or KG?


Looking into how Kevin Garnett’s time with the Timberwolves compares with his time with the Boston Celtics

At the end of an era we feel regret at no longer being able to enjoy the presence of those players who make basketball the great game that we love. Kevin Garnett, the 15 time All-Star, 12 time All- Defensive Team, nine time All-NBA, Defensive Player of the Year, MVP, and NBA champion, no longer graces the hardwood floor. He has retired. Garnett became a legend in both the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves, and will certainly be missed by the two fan bases with a claim to the man. Minnesota raised the Big Ticket from boy to man, but Boston gave him the opportunity to become KG, da man. Lets try to answer a simple question: Who was more valuable – The Big Ticket or KG?

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From a statistical point of view, the question should be an easy one to answer.  For most of his career with the Timberwolves, the Big Ticket averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds a game. After coming to the Celtics his numbers plunged. His best season was 18.8 points and 9.2 boards. So, Big Ticket, right? Not so fast, my little leprechaun. What does “most valuable” really mean?

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Jan 19, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward KG (21) against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 19, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett (21) against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

In 1995 and fresh out of high-school, Kevin Garnett exploded onto the court in Minnesota. It took him one year to become the Timberwolves’ best player. By the age of 22, he was dominant, averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds every night. He became the Big Ticket. For the first eight years of his career, Garnett led his team to the playoffs with the intensity of a young superstar. In the last four years of his career with Minnesota he led the league in rebounding.  However, in his last three years he couldn’t quite drag them to the playoffs.

The value of Kevin Garnett and players of his caliber speaks for itself. When it comes to evaluating a player’s career it too often comes down to how many points they put up and how many rebounds they pulled down. However, the rest of Garnett’s career gives us a rare opportunity to weigh such factors as leadership, experience, and the respect of teammates.

By 2007 it was time for the Wolves to build for the future.  They traded the Big Ticket to Boston for a handful of promising young players. When he came to Boston, the fans re-named him. He became KG.

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The Timberwolves had a Golden Ticket but once he moved to Boston the numbers decreased. If we only look at statistics, there is no comparison; KG was never as good as The Big Ticket. That is hardly surprising.  KG came to Boston at age 31. The peak years for most NBA players are ages 27 to 30.

In his first year within Boston, KG got his ring, which wasn’t all his own doing. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo were playing next to him. But he brought something to the game that made him extremely valuable. KG brought intensity. He brought a defensive mind-set. KG played with ferocity, he practiced with ferocity, he sat on the bench with ferocity. When KG was around, anybody who loafed caught an earful. Having the six-foot-ten, face-drenched-in-sweat,  all elbows and knees KG scream in your face was an experience you didn’t forget and one you didn’t want again. KG changed the team’s personality.

Garnett's pre-game ritual. Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE
Garnett’s pre-game ritual. Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE /

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In many ways, that 2007-2008 championship team was KG’s team. Pierce was the long time Celtic, so by rights, it was his team. Rondo ran the team from the point guard position, so he had a claim to team leader. Allen was the guy who took the clutch shot. But one of the great aspects of that team was that the Big Three always put the team first. Nobody thought that it was “their” team. It was Garnett, though, who gave the team its identity. On a team of offensive all- stars, defense was its defining characteristic. Garnett won Defensive Player of the Year that year with a defensive win share of 6.2. For those who aren’t stat geeks, 6.2 is tremendous. Garnett retired as the active career leader with 91.5 defensive win shares, or 4.4 per year.


Leadership takes many forms.

Avery Bradley

gives a lot of credit to KG for his own growth as a basketball player. Bradley says that he began to become an NBA player the day that Garnett

kevin-garnett1 /

cursed him out for missing a lay-up in practice. KG’s legacy in Boston is evident in Bradley’s 2016 first team NBA All-Defensive award. The brand of leadership that Boston inherited when they picked up the Big Ticket was worth the step that he lost in his later years. When KG was around, losing was not an option.


There is another aspect of who was most valuable. When the Wolves traded Garnett, they got back Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and two first round picks in 2009. That is a pretty good haul.  Jefferson, Green, and Gomes all have had decent careers, although Jefferson and Green performed better after they left Minnesota.

When the Celtics traded Garnett, they got  Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans and three first round draft picks (2014, 2016 and 2018), as well as the right to swap first round picks in 2017,  While the Celtics also gave up Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, this deal was primarily about KG and Pierce.  If we give KG credit for half the trade value, he brought a ton back to Boston at age 37. The Nets’ picks are part of KG’s legacy too.  When they raise Banner 18  in the next few years, they will owe a thank you to KG. In the MVP race between The Big Ticket and KG… advantage KG.


The vote here for MVP goes to KG because he was the final piece to the championship puzzle, because he changed the personality of the club into a winning, defensive minded squad, and because of his continuing impact.

Next: Boston Celtics: The Leaders

If the question is, “Who would you select with the first pick in the draft?”, I will take The Big Ticket. If the question is “Who was more valuable to their team?” The answer is KG.  
Have a great retirement big fella’, you always gave us your best