How Would the Boston Celtics Survive a Lengthy Kevin Garnett Absence?

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2013

Get well soon, KG
Get well soon, KGJared Wickerham/Getty Images

Kevin Garnett has missed seven of the last eight games, sitting out March 16 and 18 against the Charlotte Bobcats and Miami Heat with a thigh issue and missing the past six with a bum ankle that is expected to keep him out a little longer.

Thus far without Garnett, the Boston Celtics have gone 3-6 and endured a five-game losing streak.

So, how would the Celtics survive if he were to be sidelined longer than anticipated?

The answer is, they wouldn't.

For some reason, many still underestimate just how important KG is to Boston. They feel that Rajon Rondo is the most important member of the C's and the key to any potential playoff run. Not to ignore or downplay Rondo's importance to the cause, but let's be real here: It is Garnett who will determine how far this Celtics team really goes.

After all, since Rondo went down, this team has gone a respectable 18-12, and 15-6 if you exclude the games KG has missed. While Rajon is certainly important to Boston's title prospects, he just does not have the same impact on the ballclub that Garnett does.

KG completely changes the complexion of the defense. Take a look at this article from CelticsBlog. Through the All-Star break, he ranked No. 1 in the NBA in defensive regularized adjusted-plus minus, and his impact on that end of the floor is so profound that he also ranked No. 1 in regularized adjusted-plus minus period. Yes; ahead of the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, etc.

Does this mean that Garnett is the best player in the game? Hardly, but it certainly illustrates how dominant he is on the defensive end of the floor.

To be perfectly honest, you don't even need statistics to see what happens to the C's' defense when KG is not playing. Guys don't rotate properly, they don't close out, there are issues with communication and the paint is wide open for opposing slashers. The Celtics are an entirely different animal without Garnett, and a below-average animal at that.

Heck, some of it may even be psychological. It has to stink knowing that your anchor is not down low to back you up if you make a mistake. With KG out there, Boston's perimeter defenders can afford a defensive lapse. They know that usually, Garnett will be there to clean up the mess.

When the big fella isn't present, however, who will? Brandon Bass? Chris Wilcox? Shavlik Randolph?


The Celtics' recent two losses to the New York Knicks are pretty telling as to how this defense folds against strong competition without Garnett. The Knicks were able to get almost anything they wanted offensively both times.

Okay, so the second loss was more of New York just shooting lights-out from three, but given that the Knicks play with stretch-4s, KG undoubtedly would have helped prevent such a three-point barrage.

If Garnett's ankle injury is nothing severe (and for the love of god, the Celtics better hope it isn't), this might actually turn into a positive thing for Boston. They aren't going to win the Atlantic Division anyway, and they probably don't want to finish with the No. 4 or 5 seed to avoid a second-round matchup with the Miami Heat.

So, given the fact that most of these games down the stretch are relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of things, it's nice to know that KG is getting some extra rest.

It's a definite that the C's are going to ride Garnett until his back gives out this postseason. They basically did that last year even with Rondo. Remember some of the performances KG put forth during the 2012 playoffs? It was as if he turned back the clock. This time around, Garnett will be a little fresher.

Of course, none of that will matter if KG doesn't come back healthy, and it isn't without precedent.

You can't help but think back to the 2008-09 campaign where he injured his knee and never took the floor again, costing the C's a chance to win consecutive championships. Doc Rivers never officially ruled Garnett out, but...well, you know the rest.

Hopefully, 2013 doesn't mirror 2009.


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