The analytics issue of ESPN The Magazine showed up in my
neighbor’s mailbox yesterday. It’s great! A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy is on the cover just for being cool and smart, and there are charts and graphs all over the place inside. At times the content gets genuinely mathy. Good work, ESPN The.
Better still, most of the basketball content is either dedicated or connected to Kevin Garnett, highlighting arguments for his status as the greatest player of his generation (*sad Insider-only trombone*).
Most of the statistical facts will not be new to readers here, but it’s really fun (almost overwhelming) having them all in one place.
-In 2002-2003, KG scored 23 points per game, but he actually may have been worth 25.3 more per 48 minutes because of his defense, rebounding, and passing. He was almost double any other player in the league in that category and put up one of the greatest seasons in basketball history, but still lost the MVP to Tim Duncan.
-Based on Wins Produced, KG was the NBA’s best player every year from 2002-2003 to 2005-2006.
-KG is the only active player on the all-time Win Shares top-ten leaderboard at eighth. Not Duncan. Not Kobe. He’s also younger than any other player in the top-ten was when they retired.
-In his time in Boston, KG has finished seasons at 1st, 2nd, 8th, and 2nd in Defensive Rating. He’s currently 8th, just behind Joakim Noah.
What a great article! My favorite KG content, though, comes from a different piece in the same Mag about Sam Presti and the Thunder. It delivers in some quotes from and about Kendrick Perkins, who calls playing with KG “the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Scott Brooks says that Perkins borrowed Garnett’s “defensive anger,” and Perkins says KG taught him to “lose yourself in the team and not be an individual.” Perkins also apparently learned from Garnett a tendency to coin mantras: Perkins’s is “You can’t get bored with the process.” Two completely essential tenets of basketball success, and also maybe the two hardest to actually live by. But KG does it, and (much, much harder) he can teach other players to do it, too.
I’ve never fully embraced the value of “locker room guys” who don’t produce on the court. But if the Celtics do start from scratch over the next two years, quotes like that make me wonder if Garnett might be their most valuable rebuilding piece. Here’s another good line from his article: “Even in the autumn of his career, Kevin Garnett is the future of the NBA.”