The Nets offseason has brought myriad changes to Brooklyn; some were more overt than others. The Washington Wizards this week signed Kevin Garnett’s running mate of eight years, Paul Pierce. The two will likely end their careers apart. Garnett will likely stay in Brooklyn to finish perhaps the final year of his NBA career. He’s coming off the worst season of his 19-year career; a season plagued by injuries and factors both in his control and not. When the league lockout shortened the 1998-99 season — a season in which he played 47 games — Garnett nearly tripled his scoring figures from the 2013-14 season when he tallied seven more games played.
A Beats by Dre commercial last year featuring Garnett was uncomfortably poignant: Fans and media members throwing condiments and slurs at the veteran, while he blocks out the noise. The 2004 league MVP and 15-time all-star is now a 38-year-old with slow feet. His field goal percentage numbers have dipped in each of the last four seasons. His age is noticeably affecting his game, and it’s no surprise that he’s frustrated: Last year he averaged a career-high four player fouls per 36 minutes.
Despite a majority of the numbers verifying a decrease in production, Garnett still can be effective in the upcoming season. How? By playing him exclusively at power forward unless he’s matched up with a stretch-4, and positioning him 10-20 feet from the basket.
All Garnett’s shooting numbers by distance dropped last season. His most productive years in the league in terms of rebounding, scoring, and facilitating were spent at power forward. Last season, he averaged 2.4 assists less per game than his career average. He was situated under or near the basket despite shooting at a higher clip 10-16 feet from the rim vs. 3-10 feet. His shooting percentages from 10 to 16 feet and 16+ feet from the basket are what has remained the most efficient over the course of his career. Garnett is a 44.2 percent career shooter from 10 to 16 feet and 45.2 percent shooter from 16+ feet. By comparison, both figures are above Tim Duncan’s averages from the same locations.
Last season’s shot performance by zone:
When starting center Brook Lopez went down for the season with a broken foot in December, then-Coach Jason Kidd countered by playing a longball lineup that showcased Garnett almost exclusively at center. The elite power forward who’s played 70 percent of his career at the 4-spot, played 76 percent of his minutes at center in 2013-14. It wasn’t entirely atypical. Since 2011, he’s played a majority of his minutes at the 5. This most likely has more to do with limiting the amount of range he has to cover, in essence, an attempt to mask his age. His defensive abilities in the low-block haven’t really slipped, as a result. Last year, he had a defensive rating of 101; his career average is 99.
Garnett’s Defensive Impact:
If Garnett can withstand guarding low-post bigs in the way he has the past few seasons, moving to center exclusively when matched up with stretch-4s, Brooklyn will get more out of the veteran.
Garnett’s final season in the league might not end with a title or an all-star appearance, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still be productive.
Josh Planos has had his work featured at Rivals, Bleacher Report, Denver Post, CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio, and ESPN Radio, and is currently a columnist for the ESPN TrueHoop Network, FanSided and The Pick and Roll. He loves interacting with readers via Twitter (@JPlanos).