Alright everybody, the time has come for me to put on my Doc Martin’s, a pair of faded jeans and a super baggy-ass sweater, and pretend that it’s the 90s again. That is to say, I never thought I would be writing a player profile about the legend that is Kevin Garnett in 2015. A KG comeback just sounded too far fetched. But that doesn’t matter now, because he’s back. And in this the Kevin Garnett Files, I will assess his value to the team including certain misconceptions about aging hoops stars, and what we can expect form the Big Ticket on and off the court.
Part 1: Mentality
Kevin Garnett is an NBA legend, largely because of one thing: motor. Yes, KG is talented. Yes, he is an extremely gifted athlete, especially at his size. And yes, KG revolutionized the game becoming one of the leagues first real perimeter big man. Sure there were other big shooters. Guys like Larry Bird, Detlaf Schrempf, and Tony Kukoc were big and could really shoot, even from three. But those guys were legit small forwards. Charles Barkley may have stretched the court as power forward, but his size was about strength not legit NBA length. KG took the athleticism of a wing and brought it down low on defense. Then he stretched out the court on offense with his mid-range jump shooting and guard skills, forcing opposing big men away from the basket. It can be argued that KG was the first modern big man. His skills were such that banging in the post just wasn’t the greatest option. And he made it seem like 6’13” tall point guards could actually be something with in the realm of possibility. While the skills he developed played a role in changing how the game is played, still, what really made KG great was his effort.
Da Kid brought magic to the Target center and Da Big Ticket brought the crowds to their feet. KG had the mentality of a hunter. He personified the alpha male of the wolf pack, ruling them from the inside and leading them in the hunt with great personal effort. To me this was all predicated on mindset. Just take a moment to reminisce.
There are so many stories about KGs mentality. He truly is a legend. Some of these are positive, some are otherwise, and most are questionable. There have been plenty of stories about the relationship between KG and Wally Szczerbiak, one of them is linked here. Then there was this article from the startribune, about when KG once punched Duluth product Ricky Rickert during training camp. Then there’s these stories form Mason Plumblee about how KG is crazy in a good way.
These moments reveal the raging fire of intensity that is KG, and while he seems to have simmered down a bit over the years, he still comes up with gems like this:
“Here’s what KG told our players. ‘If you’re coming to camp on September 29, and you’re coming with the idea that we’re not going to make the playoffs, don’t even bother coming in.’ That’s all that needs to be said.” – Flip Saunders
When KG returned to the Twolves, some fans worried about how KGs intensity would rub off on the young pups on the roster. From what has been seen and heard, I don’t think there’s any reason worry. So far, while it is not in his innate nature, KG has adopted the role of a mentor, a similar role to what now Interim Head Coach Sam Mitchell played when Garnett was a young player. While KG has made it crystal clear (with a big “Hell Nah!”) that he will not be following in Sam I Am’s footsteps by entering into the coaching ranks, Plumblee’s story confirms that KG is practically an assistant coach already.
What KG brings to the Wolves this year is the mentality of unbridled competitive effort and undying focus. Garnett will be the teams captain and enforcer. His name alone demands the respect of even his NBA peers, of whom the grand majority of them have already retired. Then, for the young dudes, KG is a living legend. Of course, they could also be terrified they might get cracked in the jaw, or have their iPhone’s chucked into a toilet if they are caught loosing focus, but either way I think they will be compelled to listen.
I consider this, to be one variety of truly great leadership. KG will bring it until he retires and he will inspire others to bring it a well. This is the value of KG; to refuel the franchise with competitive fire. I compare this in many ways, to what Torii Hunter has done for the Twins this year. He’s been a role model for his teammates about how to be a professional athlete and how to carry themselves in a playoff race. Hunter knows how to bounce back from tough losses. While, KG may not be dancing after victories quite like this, KG will do the same for the young T-pups. Though his methods may be different, KG will do what ever he can to infuse some of his passion and hoops discipline into the team’s talented young bloods. Da Kid has come back as da wise old warrior, a great basketball xi fu, for Da millennial kidz.
If KG can follow Torii’s lead, I believe he can inspire greater effort and focus from these young players, accelerating their development and leading them to play more competitive basketball. KG does this by his presence alone, with his name on his roster, with his lanky frame in the gym and with his voice ringing out in practice.
The next question is: what can he bring onto the court?
Part 2: Defense
Kevin Garnett is an all time, all universe defender. At his best, he could buck up and switch onto any player on the court, 1-5. While much of the athleticism of youth has faded, KG will still anchor a defense. He shown in the games he played for the Twolves this past year year that he will still hold his own.
In his return to the Target Center, the Twolves looked like a different team. KG anchored the defense that day, and a team that couldn’t seem to stop anyone put together a solid defensive effort that locked down a Eastern Conference playoff team. In this game, KG showed that he still has the juice to rise to the square and rob Nene of a bucket, and then go on to block a three point attempt at the buzzer. This, along with his confidence in D-ing-up opposing guards on a switch, shows how, even at forty years old, KG can be an effective player on defense.
Part 3: Rebounding
Along with defense, Kevin Garnett’s other truly world class skill, is rebounding. The Big Ticket was Mr. Double Double in his prime. He is arguably one of the greatest defensive rebounders in NBA history. His instincts in finding the ball off the rim are fantastic, and his ability to control the ball with a couple taps, is second to none. Though last year’s Twolves rebounding woes where greatly exaggerated due to injuries, this is no doubt a basketball skill that the Twolves have to improve on. By checking out KGs career stats, we can see that he will be of assistance.
Part 4: Scoring
When #21 was leading the Twolves, he was the guy on offense. He was their number one and number two and frequently number three option. And he did it largely from the lease efficient place on the court. These days, TS% suggests that contested long-twos are the worst shot anyone can take. Nonetheless, KG dominated the league for a handful of years with his patented baseline mid-range fade away, and catch and shoot jumpers from just inside the arch.
What KG does shooting the ball, from the post or from a catch and shoot, isn’t going to go away. There’s a misconception that when players get older, that they get worse at shooting. Now, their offensive efficiency may decrease, due to loss of sheer athletic ability, but good shooters do not stop being good shooters until they lose all of their shoulder flexibility. I am confident that today, Kevin Garnett is an even better shooter than he was four years ago.
Some may look at his stats and suggest that his offensive abilities have completely fallen off. It is evident, by the per 36 min stats shown above, that KGs offensive production has fallen off, but it’s also evident that he had different roles to play in Boston and Brooklyn. When KG left MN, we all know he moved out of the role as a primary scorer. With Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo he became the third, or even forth guy to get touches on offense. It’s hard to score if you don’t get scoring touches. That was Doc Rivers’ decision. When KG went to the Nets, he had the real D-Will and Joe Johnson to “handle” the scoring. In both of these situations KG’s offensive touches were mostly designed to facilitate getting other players touches in places were they could be effective. My thought is this: only by decrease in athleticism alone, has Kevin Garnett became any less effective of an offensive weapon.
Now, I embark on a short tangent. Can an old dog learn any new tricks? I find it hard to believe that how good KG has been over the years shooting the ball out to twenty two feet, that he couldn’t stretch that out another foot or two, with comparable efficiency. Check out KG’s shot chart from 2013-14 via basketball reference. That’s just sooo many shots in the least productive place to shoot. Compare that to a decade earlier, in 2003-04 with the Latrell-Cassel Wolves and the only difference is volume. Now, I can’t actually say that I expect KG to shoot more threes, or even really think that it would be something he should focusing on, but I’d still feel a whole lot better watching KG let it fly from deep as opposed to Andrei Kirilenko or Corey Brewer … or Alexei Shved … or Mbah a Moute … or Mark Blount … or Eddie Griffen… or Oleskiy Pecherov. (Okay, I’m done now.)
Legend has it, that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but it’d be awful fun if KG was the guy to prove that saying wrong.
Part 5: Distributing the Ball
In this regard, KG may not be Magic Johnson, and he may not throw as impressive of outlet passes as Kevin Love, but he really knows how to pass the rock. Garnett has the ability of a superstar to make his team mates better. He finds people where they like to be found. There were plenty of times when KG found a Twolf last year. I’ll just leave a couple of examples here:
These are what I would call dimes. To have a big man who can do that is a huge benefit to a team. It’s awesome when a player drops the ball for a teammate, or literally creates a bucket for them. Kevin Garnett has this kind of ability. There is nothing more dangerous than a guy who can beat you from the triple threat more than one way. While KG may not blow by defenders for emphatic dunks anymore, he’s still dangerous from that triple threat, due to his shooting ability, his ability to pivot quickly into the high post and his ability as a passer. Because of these skills he’s able to maximize his abilities with expert use of pass fakes.
Part 6: Crowd Factor
It’s just pure fact that the City of Minneapolis and the Target Center are crazy about KG. The way that he gets fired up fires up the crowd. It’s as if the chalk he tosses into the air before the tip changes the atmosphere.
Other players have the ability to pump up a crowd. Punks like Derrick Williams or Wes Johnson could do it by slamming down a lob pass from Rubio. Kevin Love could do it with by zipping a outlet pass, or splashing a few threes. KG takes this to another level. His energy is contagious. NBA fans will never forget “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!” with the Celtics and Twolves fans will never for get how he pumped his fist after winning game seven against Sacramento. This contagious energy will fuel the fan base to get LOUD! Which can only encourage the rest of the team to compete night in and night out. If anything is a testament to KGs effect on the crowd, it would be KG’s return and the return of “Jiggly Boy”. Now that …
… is fun!
Value Assessment: A
Here is where value assessments really become subjective. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it value. Do teams pay players based on what they could/can produce on the court yesterday, today or in the future? Do teams pay players for their impact on the team and franchise? And how much is too much. Kevin Garnett is due around $12 Mil this years and (subjectively), I do not think that is too much.
Off Court Value: A++
Not only does KG have value on his own, but his presence boosts the value of the whole organization. The Twolves are better right now with KG. That is my assessment. The marketing value is great. Some will point to the “country club” nature of the Twolves organization and think this is just one other examples. I think that this is one of the only good examples. To have an NBA legend agree to return “home” to the Twolves and be in great position to enter into management or ownership roll shows commitment to a franchise. Both KG and Torii Hunter have shown this great interest and commitment in their Minnesota sports homes, which means, as fans we have to be doing something right … right?
KG’s role as a motivator has already had it’s effect. Players will come into training camp in Downtown Minneapolis with the mentality of a competitive team, simply because of one comment. KG’s basketball work ethic and passion already appears to have rubbed off on young players. Seeing the current level of work the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Karl-Anthony Towns, and even Ricky Rubio have been put in already, it’s clear their fired up to compete. KG’s presence has something to do with this.
On Court Value: B/B+
It’s hard to give KG much better than a B+ right now, I think for each individual game his production could fluctuate greatly. He’s bound to miss some time, sitting out some games here and there if their are back to backs, so that lowers his grade. The fact is, what KG still brings to the court the Twolves desperately need. He has the skills to fill a big role on this team: a proven defensive anchor.
There will be games where he flashes brilliance. He will channel vintage KG at moments. KG and the target center are a symbiotic relationship. They will pump each other up. With Rubio’s ability to dime, with other weapons surrounding him, KG could be more productive this season than he has since his first few years with the Celtics.
This is my assessment. He’s no longer the star he once was, but it sure is nice that he’s back. Let’s take a moment to review on thing:
Looking back to last offseason, as of today the Twolves essentially traded Kevin Love, Luc Richard Mba a Moute and Alexey Shved for Andrew Wiggins and Kevin Garnett. To me that looks pretty solid whether or not I’m wearing my Doc Martins and an enormous sweater.
Sooo … I’ll just leave this here:
Let’s hope we see this level energy in the Target Center a lot more this year.