MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -When Kevin Garnett headed east to Boston at the end of July, the Celtics started priming themselves for a return to glory.
The debate started quickly. Are the Celtics the team to beat in the Eastern Conference? Will Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce mesh on the court? Is the rest of the supporting cast ready to contribute?
Good questions all, but there is an even more important one that thousands are considering across the country as the regular season approaches: How will ``The Trade'' affect my fantasy draft?
If you ask Jon Loomer, the senior manager of fantasy games for NBA.com, Garnett's move from struggling Minnesota in the powerful Western Conference to veteran-laden Boston in the weaker East should translate to a banner fantasy season.
So much so that Loomer has Garnett ranked as No. 1 on his fantasy board. That ``The Big Ticket'' is high on the fantasy list is nothing new. His combination of scoring, rebounding, blocks, shooting percentage and assists makes for a fantasy monster.
Now, with Pierce and Allen wearing the same colors to prevent some of the double- and triple-teaming he saw his entire career in Minnesota, Loomer sees even bigger things for Garnett.
``It was a debate for quite a while,'' Loomer said. ``But if I had the No. 1 pick in a draft, he would be that guy. The more I thought about it, this is really a good thing for him.''
After Garnett, Loomer goes with Gilbert Arenas, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Shawn Marion, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki and Atlanta's Josh Smith for his top 10.
In his final season with the Timberwolves last year, Garnett averaged 22.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 blocks per game, the kind of all-around numbers that Wolves fans came to take for granted and fantasy owners drooled over.
When it comes to success in fantasy basketball, it's all about who can put up the biggest numbers in the most categories. Not just points and rebounds, but blocks, steals, field goal percentage, 3-point shooting, and on and on and on.
With two All-Stars on the court with him this year in Beantown, Garnett's statistics will improving, Loomer predicts.
Then there's the competition? His move to Boston means he won't be facing the likes of Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer and Elton Brand on a nightly basis in the talent-laden West.
``He should have a better time dominating in the East versus in the West,'' Loomer said.
Rick Kamla isn't so sure. Kamla is the host of the nightly fantasy show ``NBA TV Fantasy Hoops'' and the NBA TV network's fantasy guru.
``I am not in agreement with that at all,'' Kamla said. ``I think the argument for No. 1 comes down to two players.''
With Dwyane Wade injured and Arenas still recovering from an injury, Kamla's top two are old reliables - Bryant and King James, of course.
Both players, like Garnett, stuff the box score. What separates Kobe and LeBron from KG, Kamla says, is that Garnett's scoring average could dip this season with Allen and Pierce chucking up their fair share of shots.
We all know that in Cleveland and Los Angeles, the lights are perpetually green for James and Bryant.
``Kevin Garnett is unselfish. He always has been, sometimes to a fault,'' Kamla said. ``He's going to defer to Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.''
Kamla does have a point. Garnett has never met a pass out of a double team that he didn't like.
Crunch time or garbage time, KG is only too happy to dish. Kamla is betting that Garnett's scoring average will dip below 20 per game, and ``with the No. 1 overall pick, you have to be in the 20s in points per game, and high 20s. It gives you a huge advantage.''
Ahh, but in fantasy basketball, assists count for points, too.
And Loomer has another counter.
``In Boston, you've got Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett,'' Loomer says. ``Then who is going to score? I really don't see his points dropping that dramatically.''
Things sure are looking up for Garnett these days. He has more talent around him than he's ever had and will be playing in a city with a basketball tradition like no other.
Loomer is feeling pretty good himself. He presides over a burgeoning fantasy Web site at NBA.com and is always looking for ways to attract new players.
This year, he came up with the NBA Stock Exchange. It works like the stock market, with each player having a set dollar value that can fluctuate on a daily basis depending on his health, performance and other factors. Players can be bought and sold, with each owner working with a fixed salary cap.
``We want to pull in the widest audience possible,'' Loomer said, ``while still giving our base of users the best possible experience.''

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