The guy everyone wants is Kevin Garnett. The question is where he will be next season.
The Minnesota Timberwolves and Garnett mostly ignore the incessant prattling about Garnett leaving the long misguided, underachieving franchise, though there continue to be rumors and reports - TNT added another last week - that the club wouldn't stand in Garnett's way if he wanted to be traded.
"Sounds to me like they wouldn't mind moving him but don't want the blame," said one team executive who would like to be in on what could be the best personnel sweepstakes since Shaquille O'Neal went to the Miami Heat.
So what makes sense? Here's a look at the 10 most likely deals for Garnett this summer:
1. Los Angeles Clippers: Garnett lives in Malibu and the Clippers could put together a much better package than the Lakers. It would help them retain Sam Cassell, whom Garnett worked well with in Minnesota and can take that last shot. Watching Garnett being triple-teamed now is sad. Plus, the Clippers have what Garnett and Cassell didn't have, a center in Chris Kamen. How about Elton Brand, Corey Maggette as he returns from surgery and Shaun Livingston for perhaps Garnett and Mark Madsen, the latter to dance at the Clippers' championship rally.
2. Golden State Warriors: Figure this will be the summer they try to make the big splash, and they have the assets. They could put together something appealing with their first-round pick, Jason Richardson and Troy Murphy and perhaps throw in one of their European kids, like Andris Biedrins or Zarko Cabarkapa.
3. Indiana Pacers: They've got a big piece in Jermaine O'Neal, whom they probably would deal for someone like Garnett. Perhaps with one of their guards, like Jamaal Tinsley, Anthony Johnson or Sarunas Jasikevicius and a first-round pick, it would be enough for the Timberwolves to come away looking whole and with some assets.
4. New York Knicks: Well, they do have a lot of players. And they have two first-round draft picks this season, though in the bottom half, probably from Denver and San Antonio. Maybe the two first-rounders, Channing Frye, Steve Francis, Jamal Crawford and David Lee. Minnesota would have to think about it for Garnett and an extra like Madsen, and if they have bad contracts the Knicks surely would take them.
5. Los Angeles Lakers: Garnett is their rebuilding plan with Amare Stoudemire and Yao Ming having re-signed. Garnett and Kobe Bryant would be enough to be back in serious contention. Perhaps Lamar Odom, promising kid center Andrew Bynum, whomever else they may want and a first-round draft pick? It's not like the Lakers got that much for O'Neal. If Garnett chooses a place to go and is insistent, the Timberwolves have to get the best they can to avoid a scene. And Garnett, who some label a high-level Don Knotts-type since he is best as a supporting man in the end, badly needs a finisher to have the kind of ultimate success he seeks.
6. Chicago Bulls: The Timberwolves need to build, and the Bulls have pieces. The risk with Garnett is that he has played more than 30,000 minutes and never is hurt. How long can he keep that up? But in the Eastern Conference, he could make a big difference. Perhaps the Knicks' top pick, which the Bulls own and seems certain to be in the top five if not No. 1 overall, Ben Gordon, Chris Duhon and Andres Nocioni? Maybe even throw in the Bulls' other No. 1, which should be toward the middle of the first round. The Bulls can absorb Garnett's salary with their salary cap space. The assumption is the Timberwolves, like the Lakers did with O'Neal, would give Garnett veto over certain deals. So the question is whether the Bulls would have enough left to be a high-level competitor and be attractive to Garnett.
7. Dallas Mavericks: I've long thought this one fit. And if the Mavericks are an early playoff victim, it might make sense with their new defensive direction to offer Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry in a sign-and-trade deal.
8. New Jersey Nets: Wouldn't they just love to continue to stick it to the Knicks? And they have some big pieces they can afford to give up, like Vince Carter or Richard Jefferson. Remember, Garnett isn't going just anywhere. Figure it should be a major market or somewhere he can win. Maybe Carter, Nenad Krsti and their two first-round picks, their own and the Clippers'.
9. Philadelphia 76ers: Hard to see the Timberwolves taking on Allen Iverson, but you can assume the 76ers will make a run with him. Something like Iverson, their first-round pick and a piece like Andre Iguodala or Kyle Korver. Hey, people seem to go to games everywhere but in Philadelphia to see Iverson.
10. Boston Celtics: This is the big strike Minnesota supposedly has been holding back for. So make it Pierce, Al Jefferson and a first-round pick, which would give the Timberwolves plenty to build with, though it might look a little too much like Celtics Midwest after the Ricky Pierce deal. Wally Szczerbiak and Garnett back together again?
Sam Smith writes for the Chicago Tribune.