Why Kevin Garnett Is the Most Critical Cog to the Celtics' 2012-2013 Title Hopes

Jeremy Gottlieb@@jmg2776Contributor ISeptember 12, 2012

There's no way the Celtics are contenders without KG.
There's no way the Celtics are contenders without KG.Chris Chambers/Getty Images

The numbers tell the story.

During the abbreviated 2011-2012 season, Kevin Garnett averaged 14.3 points, 7.5 boards and less than a block per game on 49.7 percent shooting as a power forward.

As a center, all of those numbers went up (16.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 50.7 percent from the floor).

The translation is that Garnett, while still a solid, forceful, imposing player before the position switch, became that much more dynamic, and important, afterward.

With their window for another potential title with KG in the fold closing, the Celtics opted to go out and reload this summer. But even with all the new faces and re-signed familiar ones, Garnett is still the most crucial piece to the puzzle.

Paul Pierce is still the captain and Rajon Rondo is the best player on the roster. Garnett is the guy the Celtics need more than anyone if they want to get to where they want to go.

Garnett is a matchup nightmare at the five. He's still quick and fleet enough to get around any size disadvantages he may run into and he can use that quickness to lure bigger, slower centers out to the perimeter, where he's an excellent jump shooter.

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He also remains the team's defensive anchor. In 20 playoff games this past spring, the Celts allowed an opponent to score 98 or more points three times. Once was the 115-111 overtime loss to the Heat in the Eastern Finals. Another was Game 6 of that same series, the night LeBron James figured it out.

And then there's his work on the glass. According to Hoopdata.com, Garnett's defensive rebounding rate of 25.8 was 15th in the NBA and more than twice the league average. He grabbed 8.2 boards per game.

In other words, the Celtics, who were statistically the worst rebounding team in the league at 38.8 per game, still had one of the most efficient rebounders of last season. As tough as it was for Celtics' fans to see them get pounded on the glass night after night, imagine how much worse it would have been without Garnett.

Defense, rebounding, perimeter shooting, toughness and leadership. These are all still strong suits of KG's game, even at age 36 and 17 years into his NBA career. There's a reason the C's made re-signing him their top priority before free agency even began this summer.

If the Celtics were a souped up sports car, Rondo might be the driver.

But Kevin Garnett is the engine.

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