How Kevin Garnett's Career Has Been Resurrected by Shifting to Center
Kevin Garnett's 2011-12 season has been a tale of two positions.
The starting power forward for the Boston Celtics averaged 14.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.8 blocks on 49.7 percent shooting. While those numbers are certainly serviceable, Garnett's decline in production looked like it was set to continue.
That was before the transition to center—a move that rejuvenated "The Big Ticket" back to being a best-seller at the box office.
Garnett took the move to center in stride and didn't look back, with averages of 16.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks on 50.7 percent shooting. Creating constant mismatches and forcing slow-footed big men to extend their defense to the perimeter, KG took advantage of those who were assigned the task of defending him.
The result? A vintage game that reminded us of what made him so successful in Minnesota before he came to Boston.
As can be seen in the video below, Garnett was not an advocate of his transition to center, but it's a move that has really benefited both him and his team. As the heart and soul of this team, Garnett's revival has been a major reason why the Celtics turned around a terrible start to the year and are now seen as a legitimate threat in the postseason.
He was supposed to be a player on the decline. The plan was to cap Garnett's minutes so he could hold up through the season. Boston believed that a healthy KG in limited minutes would be better than nothing, and were careful about overusing him coming into the season.
That all changed when he moved to center.
When Garnett came into the league, he helped to reinvent the power forward position. Now, his peers aren't so unlike him. Perhaps more importantly, KG doesn't have the same explosiveness that once made him a force around the rim.
Garnett can still dunk the basketball and operate in the low post, but not with the same effectiveness he had in his younger days. The physical limitations on his game have him roaming the perimeter more often, looking to nail the open jumper from 15-20 feet away from the basket.
Although bouncing around the outside can still work, Garnett's opposition at power forward has changed since his rookie season. More players are able to defend the perimeter, and more incoming prospects are beginning to model their games after sharpshooting big men like Dirk Nowitzki. Because of that, Garnett's ability to stretch the floor isn't as effective against the opposition as it once was.
But while his advantage at the 4 is no longer apparent, Garnett has a definitive edge at center. There aren't many centers in the league who can step out and defend Garnett on the perimeter, and that's where he's made a living this season. According to Hoopdata, Garnett was a 48 percent shooter on attempts between 16-23 feet. That's the highest mark he's registered since the 2007-08 campaign, his first (and most effective) season with the Celtics.
Garnett might not be thrilled with his move to center, but it's clearly benefiting his career and will be responsible for him getting a very nice offer as a free agent in the offseason.
Sometimes, the best changes are ones which we initially resist.
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