Boston Celtics: Does Kevin Garnett Deserve Legitimate MVP Hype This Season?
When most think of an MVP, the big names of the league always seem to come to mind. In LA there’s Bryant and in Miami last year’s recipient in LeBron James. Then you have others like Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki, with Nowitzki putting up career-high numbers while leading Dallas to the second best record in the western conference.
One player who seems to be overlooked: Boston’s Kevin Garnett. Winner of the league’s award in the 2003-2004 season with the Timberwolves, Garnett has been a leader vocally and with his play for the Celtics this season, keeping them atop the east and anchoring the league's top ranked defense.
Columnist for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine, Bill Simmons, has Garnett as number two behind Dirk Nowitzki, a ranking that most may find hard to believe. Kevin Garnett has been all the Celtics have needed and more this season for these three reasons.
3) The Numbers Don't Lie
Since his knee injury just over a season ago, Garnett has looked as healthy as he has since his last years in Minnesota. In 30 games this season, he has put up his best numbers since his first season with the Cs.
On the glass, Garnett has been active to say the least. His rebounds are up to 9.5 a game, a mark that puts him at tenth in the league this season and 2.2 better than his average a season ago. Of the 9.2 board a contest, 8.2 have come on the defensive end, a mark that stands at fourth in the league.
Active hands have been significant in the team’s dominance as well, as his steals are also up to 1.70 a game, a mark that ties for the highest average of his career. The commitment to defense and the “extra bounce” in his step since his recovery have been vital in the Celtics maintaining the number one defense in the NBA.
2) No Big Ticket...Yes, A Problem
Some might argue that part of what makes a player “MVP worthy,” is the idea of how successful his team would perform without him. Take out Garnett from the Celtics lineup, and the east’s best team doesn’t seem so dominant. The Celtics, now 25-7, have been anything but consistent since KG has been out of the lineup.
As you can see, head coach Doc Rivers doesn't look too content.
After starting the first 30 games of the season, Garnett has been sidelined the last three games with a strained calf suffered in a loss at Detroit last Wednesday. An MRI Thursday came up negative as team doctors diagnosed him with a muscle strain, which Danny Ainge says will keep him out no more than “a couple of weeks.”
Without him the Celtics are losers of two of their last three games, losing one to an 11-22 Pistons team who they beat earlier this season by 23. Their inside presence has taken a hit as well, losing the battle on the boards by eight over their last three games. Despite beating the Raptors (11-22) in their last outing, the Celtics allowed 49 rebounds to a team not known for their size, 11 more than their season average.
1) The Most Value
This argument can otherwise be known as the “Steve Nash” argument. Back-to-back winner of the award in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, Nash was the anchor to the team’s dynamic fast break offense in Phoenix that helped them be an elite team in the west. He might not have been the biggest name in basketball at the time, and might not have put up the points per game fans love to watch, but he controlled one of the league’s best teams in what they did best.
After losing an all-star in Rondo several weeks ago to injury, the Celtics still continued on to win 14 straight games and lose all but three games. Since the loss of Garnett, they have lost two of three and seem to have lost a step on the defensive end.
There’s no secret as to how the Celtics continue to win games. Defense, defense, and more defense. After finishing third and fifth in the league in the last two seasons, the Celtics own the league’s best defense this season allowing just over 90 points a contest.
Garnett, a ten time NBA All-Defensive Team member and 2007-2008 Defensive Player of the Year with Boston, has continued to anchor the Celtics in doing what they do best. With his projected return January 15, expect Garnett to keep on track and help the Celtics in preserving the best record in the east.