The tick tock will determine whether Kevin Garnett gets traded to the L.A. Clippers by Thursday's NBA trade deadline. It'll take the Clippers' braintrust convincing Danny Ainge to pursue such a deal, and it'll take someone -- Ainge, Chris Paul, Vinny Del Negro, Blake Griffin, a Google Map readout showing the distance between Staples Center and Malibu -- to convince KG to waive his no-trade clause.

But what determines whether such a trade would be worth it for the Clippers depends on how much the Ticket can improve L.A. within the next couple of years.

Right now, the Clippers are No. 3 in the West. They trail San Antonio by four games and the Thunder by 1.5 games. A path to the Finals would almost certainly go through Oklahoma City at some point, and also possibly through S.A. To beat either team will require not just the strong offense we've come to expect from Chris Paul's teams, but really good defense. OKC and S.A. are No. 1 and No. 5 in offense in the NBA, respectively. Any defense would be tested when facing that. In particular, the Thunder have the best offense since the 2009-10 Suns. It's a powerful beast led by the most aggressive creator in the league (Russell Westbrook) and the purest scorer of his generation (Kevin Durant). Even great defense have real trouble slowing the Thunder. And many would hesitate to call L.A.'s defense great. That's where K.G. comes in.