Being that the Boston Celtics most likely will not be able to acquire an impact center through free agency, a question I was asked to look into is whether or not Kevin Garnett can still be an elite defender without a high-level center in Boston.
You can really go about looking at it from two different perspectives. The eyeball test and what the statistics tell you.
Even after that, whichever way you look at it, the answer is going to be yes. Kevin Garnett can still be a lockdown defender without an effective center.
For starters, just look at who KG lined up with last season. There was Shaq, who’s not an elite defender. Jermaine O’Neal was solid down the stretch, but was a fraction of what he used to be, and he missed plenty of games during the season.
Nenad Krstic never really showed any defensive presence, despite his offense being useful at first. Put all of that together and KG was still able to make the all-defensive team with those players around him, so chalk one up for the yeses there.
When you look at the stats, the Boston Celtics led the league in opponent’s points against, a telling number in KG’s favor, since again he didn’t have a marquee player in the paint with him.
The Celtics were also second in the league in plus/minus for five-man rotations. Rondo-Allen-Pierce-Garnett-Davis were a plus-167 when they played together. While Glen Davis is a nice piece off the bench for the C’s, he is by no means a stalwart player in the NBA.
The only real reason that Kevin Garnett couldn’t remain a lockdown defender is because of himself. He’s getting older, so time is working against him, but as far as whether his teammates will impede his performance, there’s no reason to believe that they will.
Garnett has always been able to pick up the slack, so as long as his body holds up, the Celtics are in good hands.
The Celtics may not be the top team in the East anymore, but KG and company will still be able to put on their nightly defensive display regardless of who is in the middle.
Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up some defensive insurance and find an affordable center who could help boost KG’s production.