Years Pro: 18
Hometown: Greenville, SC
Prior to NBA: Farragut Academy HS (IL)
Frequent purveyors of The Brooklyn Game know that I’m a statistically inclined individual. I watch an inordinate amount of Nets film, and I’m most comfortable when my eyes and the numbers line up. Benjamin Disraeli said there are three types of lies — lies, damned lies, and statistics — but it’s really the abuse of context that makes statistics easily malleable. If you understand the context, you’ll understand why, for instance, Steve Novak ranked as one of the league’s best defenders, according to Synergy Sports Technology. (The reasons why are neither here nor there; the point is that the stats aren’t liars, you just have to take the time to understand what they mean.)
But when it comes to Kevin Garnett, even when the statistics do bear him out as one of the league’s most formidable defenders, I just don’t care. It doesn’t matter. Because Kevin Garnett is one of the rare NBA exceptions, where his impact goes so incredibly beyond his individual statistical record that to look at him through the prism of statistical analysis is to miss Kevin Garnett.
All it took was one practice for Garnett to leave an indelible mark on Brooklyn’s makeup, and I’m not sure he’s stopped yelling since. The team feeds off his energy, his remarkable desire to treat every mundane practice drill like his effort in it will go on his tombstone. Defensive drills are louder, across the board. “On defense, I’ve got to be loud,” he says, as if he’s never had a choice.
He asks more of his teammates than any other Nets player, and he gives it right back. “If… I’m doing things by example, and I’m trying to be the example, I’ve got to be able to do that,” he says. “I’ve got to be able to say to (teammates), you see me out here, he’s got to be able to see me do something hard, so when I ask him to do something that’s hard, he can’t say, ‘well, I didn’t see you do it.’ I’m always viewing myself like that.”
He’s a relentless energy, one that’s immediately changed the culture of this franchise, and all of that would be true if he didn’t play a minute. But he’s expected to play a lot, and when he steps on the floor, he completely changes the composition of a defense.
Below is a chart detailing just how impactful Garnett’s mere presence can be on a team’s defense:
For those of you that have trouble reading it: the first column is last year’s Boston Celtics defensive rating with Kevin Garnett on the court. They allowed 96.2 points per 100 possessions with Garnett manning the middle. That’s fewer points allowed per possession than the Indiana Pacers, who ranked as the league’s best defense last season. Conversely, with Garnett off the court, the Celtics allowed 104.6 points per 100 possessions, or about the same as the Toronto Raptors — the league’s 22nd-best defense.
In short: Garnett’s impact alone was roughly the difference between the league’s best defense and one of the league’s worst.
Garnett’s influence stretches into the offensive end. Though he’s famously shied further and further from the basket as he’s aged, decreasing his rebounding numbers, Garnett’s also developed into arguably the league’s best midrange shooter. Though about 90 percent of his midrange jumpers are assisted on, meaning he rarely has to create his own shot, it’s still worth noting he shot 16′-23′ jumpers at a better rate than two of the league’s best jump shooters last season:
Garnett also shot a scorching 52.2% on spot-up two-pointers last season, and a still-stellar 49% on pick-and-roll/pop two-pointers, according to mySynerySports.
This is what makes Garnett so valuable. He’s got the respect of players like Jason Kidd, with the ability to contribute in a significant way on both ends of the floor. He won’t dynamically change the offense like Deron Williams, but he won’t call shotgun on it and run away laughing manically like MarShon Brooks. He knows his role, and it’s perhaps the team’s most important.
Garnett’s function on the Nets this year is perhaps the clearest of any player on the roster: space the floor with pick-and-pops, help Lawrence Frank teach & instill the team’s defensive principles, rebound a little more than the last two seasons, and when in doubt, be Kevin Garnett. He’s the team’s catalyst, it’s vocal point, a role that no other NBA player could possibly fill. The team may only go as far as Deron Williams leads them, but behind every Deron Williams is a Kevin Garnett, barking orders and keeping the system in place.
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| Shaun Livingston | Deron Williams | Tyshawn Taylor | Alan Anderson | Joe Johnson | Jason Terry | Andrei Kirilenko | Paul Pierce | Tornike Shengelia | Reggie Evans | Kevin Garnett | Mirza Teletovic | Andray Blatche | Brook Lopez | Mason Plumlee |