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The Evolution of KG, in Numbers

 

kgKevin Garnett has always been a jump-shooter. Even during his MVP year in Minnesota in 2004, 75 percent of his shots were jump shots, according to 82games

But we’re beginning to see some evidence that Kevin Garnett is becoming a different kind of jump-shooter as he ages—specifically, one who takes more long jumpers and is more dependent on his teammates to get them off. 

Let’s take a look at how KG has distributed his shot attempts during his last season in Minnesota, his first in Boston and this season (with all info from the superb site Hoopdata.com). The left column represents KG’s average field-goal attempts per game; the other four columns represent the percentage of those field-goal attempts that came from various distances from the rim. (Note: I’m skipping ’09 since he missed so many games, but the stats from that year show the same general trend).

                       FGAs/G               At rim         <10 ft             10-15 ft              16-23 ft

’07                 17.6                     22.7%               14.7%              21.5%                    35.2%

’08                 13.9                      25.2%              15.8%             18.0%                    40.0%

’10                 11.6                      27.9%              17.3%              12.1%                     43.1%

It’s a small but gradual evolution: KG’s shot selection is moving both closer to the rim and further away. He’s getting more shots at the rim and within 10 feet and in the area between the foul line and the three-point arc—the area NBA experts generally consider the least “efficient” place from which to shoot. 

But this isn’t a bad thing. The first reason is simple: Since 2007, KG has made a slightly higher percentage of shots from 16-23 feet than from the 10-15 foot range. And that makes intuitive sense. Those 16-23 footers tend to be open shots created by dribble penetration or a pick-and-pop, while the 10-15 footers are more often created in one-on-one isolation and shot within crowds. 

Put another way: A shot from 10-15 feet away is (generally) the worst shot Kevin Garnett can take.

But there’s a second change in KG’s offensive game that is even more dramatic than his changing shot chart, though the two are clearly connected.

 

The second change is this: A higher percentage of KG’s made field goals—from all ranges—come from a teammate’s assist than ever before in his career. Here are the numbers (again, via Hoopdata).

AT THE RIM

Year—Percentage of Baskets Assisted On:

2007: 55.6%

2008: 71.6%

2010: 77.3%

LESS THAN 10 FEET

Year: Percentage of Baskets Assisted On

2007: 50%

2008: 37.5%

2010: 66.7%

BETWEEN 10 AND 15 FEET:

Year: Percentage of Baskets Assisted On

2007: 48%

2008: 45.9%

2010: 61.5%

BETWEEN 16 AND 23 FEET:

Year: Percentage of Baskets Assisted On:

2007: 74.3%

2008: 86.6%

2010: 93.6%

The trend, so far this season, is pretty stark: KG’s offensive game is much more teammate-dependent than ever before. The numbers on 82games.com back this up. The site tracks what percentage of a player’s shots are assisted on in three distance ranges—jump shots, shots from “in close” and dunks. The data goes back to 2003, when KG was in his absolute prime, and the numbers during that season and his final few seasons in Minnesota were consistent: About 65 percent of his jumpers and in-close shots and 75 percent of his dunks came from teammate assists. 

This year? Those numbers are up to 80 percent for jumpers and in-close shots, and 100 percent for KG’s dunks. All of those are—by far—career highs.

(Click the following to see the 82games.com numbers for 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and this season). 

Again: This isn’t a bad thing. In 2007, KG’s “point guard” was some combination of Mike James, Troy Hudson and Marko Jaric. Today, it’s Rajon Rondo, with Paul Pierce occasionally playing a version of point forward on those KG-Pierce pick-and-pops that work so well. 

As he ages, KG should take advantage of his (excellent) teammates and find more of his shots in the flow of the offense rather than via isolation. Isolation plays demand extra energy, so using fewer of those during the regular season may give us a slightly fresher KG for the playoffs. 

The question we’re left with is this: How much of this trend is the result of KG taking better advantage of his teammates’ skills and how much is the result of a deterioration in his own abilities? 

Come playoff time, when the shot clock is running down and KG has the ball on the block, will he be able to score efficiently on his own?

  • http://AngryIrish.com Chris O

    Ummm…I’m not sure how much is his teammates Vs. how much is KG’s own deterioration. However I still think KG can produce on his own he just doesn’t necessarily need to. Lets face it KG is the 3rd or 4th option on this offense (or at least he should be) which makes it less important for him to create for himself and more important for him to either create for others or take advantage when others create for him.

  • Cam

    Nice article. Not really surprised with how many assists are team creates in general. Also the spike from ’08 to now can also be attributed to Rondo alone and his improvement since that year which was his second in the league. I don’t remember ever seeing the Rondo-KG alleyoop play that we run all the time since last year. I’d like to see other players on our team and how many of there buckets have come from assists. I bet it would be up from ’07 for sure for a lot of them as this team is so pass-oriented and unselfish

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    @Cam: Will have something sort of what you’re looking for in a post tomorrow.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    - both….deterioration and letting the guys around him take the load. he may bark like a dog but he thinks like a yoda.
    - the C’s won’t need KG to score down on the block late in a playoff game….they got enough weapons so no worries, mon. would prefer to see sheed venturing downlow a bit more though.

    “KG’s shot selection is moving both closer to the rim and further away.”
    counterintuitive….numbers don’t lie…..thanks for putting together this piece.

  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    BTW: i shelled out for tickets to see the bucks tomorrow. who wouldathunk that i’d be so pumped to see the bucks?!

    looking forward to your pregame. would really like to hear predictions on the rondo/jennings matchup. if rondo almost picked a fight with chris paul at the TD to try and make him show status/respect for ‘his house’….whats he going to pull on a hyped-up rook with jets on his shoes and swag in his step….?

  • http://Aol.com Matt

    The difference between now and his years in minnasota is the quality of talent arround him. In Minn the best player he had on his team was sprewell….yes the spinning rims guy! So he had to dominate every single night for the timberpups to have a fighting chAnce to win. Now he has a young talented pg in rondo who creates for everyone. Paul who can score from anywhere and Ray who is the greatest three point shooter ever and perk a beast in the paint. Plus the system he plays in now is predicated on ball movement threepoint threats and floor spaceing. With that said…obviously easier shots are being taken advantage of by Kg. Pick and role drive and kick and on and on kg is the key. He pulls bigs out away from the hoop and streatches defenses. I don’t think this is any real change due too age or stratagy it’s just simply going with what this teams offensive sets dictate and other teammates have created. Personally I hope he and sheed move their butts to the paint and post up for about half their feildgoal attempts…..not going to happen but I can hope.

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  • Liveforever

    I absolutely hate how KG has seemingly become the 5th option on offense for the Celtics this season. Just look at last night’s game for example, he took 5 shots… every other starter took 10 or more.

    He is still no doubt the 2nd best offensive player on this team (and not too far off from Pierce even with the loss of explosiveness from the injury), yet jumperless ball-hog Rondo takes as many shots per night as KG does on average.

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  • enjoyrobby

    kg has taken lesser shots per year. you're not paid millions to take a pass. shoot the god damn ball! this is also the reason why the celtics are losing. the big 3 should take atleast 15-20 shots each per game. the end result is PRODUCTION. not a sentiment of being an anchor on defense or a hall of famer clogging the paint. geez.

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