It sounds a bit funny when said out loud, but Boston has one of the league’s best centers. Kevin Garnett, though largely, publicly defined as a “power forward,” has the height and rebounding ability befitting a “5.” In the NBA, your position is determined by whom you guard. KG, in his dotage, has been asked to mark up on slower, lumbering brutes.
Doc Rivers wants to go with the KG option more, indicating the following to the Boston Herald:
“I don’t think our eyes are trained yet to look down there. I think you have to train the players’ eyes to look in the post off of pick-and-rolls and off other actions. I think we’re starting to do that. I still think we don’t do it enough. We’re a ways away.”
Now, a lot of coaches declare an intent to go down low or what have you. It’s great to get the ball near the basket for easier shots than a long-two. The issue is that is easier said than done—especially with the advent of zone defense. With illegal defense scrapped from the league, opposing teams can front big men, or shift coverage onto them after they catch the rock.
Such measures are tough on certain, limited bigs like, say Roy Hibbert, or DeAndre Jordan. Fortunately for Boston, Kevin Garnett—even at his advanced age—is far from limited. If you front KG, he’s long enough to snatch almost any high lob out of the air. If you double team him after the catch, he’s a perceptive enough passer to make you pay.
As he gets up there in years, the most limited aspect of KG’s game is his minutes. Doc Rivers has set a low cap on those ever since Garnett came over to Boston in 2007. Right now, KG is averaging 29 minutes per game, a full 10 MPG lower than in his last Minnesota season.
I don’t think Doc is necessarily “wrong” for limiting KG’s play like this, but I often wonder whether Garnett could provide the same production with Minnesota playing time. Minutes allotment is an inexact science. Caution with Manu Ginobili’s minutes had been greeted with many Manu Ginobili injuries. Kobe Bryant was largely healthy last season, despite playing 38.5 MPG. There is a chance that the answer to Boston’s bench woes is simply, “More Kevin Garnett.” It remains to be seen as to whether Doc Rivers wants to take that risk with his elder center.
As for KG on offense, his involvement should increase as Boston steps away from its long-two-laden strategy of old. Last year, the Celtics experimented with playing Garnett against opposing centers. This year, it’s time to take full advantage of his mobility and dexterity against the Nikola Pekovic’s of this world. It’s also imperative that Boston’s offense gets less Rondo-dominated. Rajon is playing well, but the Celtics would be wise to incorporate some balance to their offense, as opposed to making Rajon the Celtic version of Atlanta‘s old “Iso-Joe” strategy.
Boston’s bench is struggling and there’s little size around Kevin Garnett. For the Celtics to have even a puncher’s chance at a title run, Garnett must be more of a presence, whether that means more minutes or more post touches.
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