We are finding out a lot about different players in these 2009 NBA playoffs—who is stepping up, who is taking it to the next level, who is going to be the next hero, and who is going to be the next goat?
One player that no one is talking about is Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics. His absence has probably had the biggest impact on these playoffs, more so than any other player.
For Boston, the impact was devastating. They went from being the favorite in the East to a middle to lower-tier playoff team. That drop is significant because the Celtics have two other All-Stars on their roster, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
KG makes everything the Celtics do come together on the court defensively as well as offensively. He guards the basket on defense and allows everyone else to be aggressive because they know he is the last line of defense.
Garnett has a way of intimidating his opponents also, and gets into their heads. He often has his counterpart beat before the game is done because they know he is intense, relentless, and willing to get in your face if necessary.
Chicago continually went to the basket with no fear because of a lack of presence inside by the Celtics. This isn't an indictment of Kendrick Perkins, but he is just not the player that KG is.
Over the course of his career, KG averages 11 rebounds per game. That means less opportunities for the opposition to get second-chance points. If it took Orlando seven games to beat Boston without Garnett, I can't help but believe that the Magic wouldn't have had a shot to win that series if KG was healthy.
Orlando would not have been able to double Pierce, and KG would have kept Dwight Howard occupied on both ends of the court.
Boston runs a lot of their offense through Garnett because he is an excellent passer from the post and recognizes how and when to get rid of the ball when double-teamed.
The Celtics struggled mightily in the playoffs because they didn't have a low-post presence on offense. KG would have been able to score in the low post, and set up his teammates for easier shots.
He can also step out and consistently hit the f15-foot jump shot, which would have brought Howard and any other centers defending him away from the basket. KG is the ultimate team player that does everything for his team.
Unfortunately, many fans don't realize his true worth untill he is not in the line-up. The regular season is one thing, but you cannot make up for an MVP type player of KG's ability, even if you have two other all-stars on the team.
If you look at the big picture, KG has had more of an effect on this series than anyone else. The Lakers are considered by most to be the favorite, but when you see them get pushed around by teams that are more physical (Houston and Denver), I can't help but think that Boston would have the advantage with a healthy team.
Orlando is on the cusp of making to the NBA finals because Garnett is hurt, and Cleveland is affected because they have had problems defending Orlando's superior wingmen each time they have played in the regular season (and now in the playoffs).
KG is always close to the top of my list when it comes to MVPs because of what he does for his team, not just for where his team finishes. He is not appreciated as he should be because he is not selfish and plays the game the way it should be played.
His imprint is all over these playoffs, even though he was sidelined.