Minnesota rejoices as the prodigal son returns home…but just how much of an impact will Kevin Garnett actually have?
The soon-to-be Hall of Famer’s return is fun and will tickle your nostalgia bone, but at 38 years old, can Garnett really turn the high-potential Wolves into a title contender before bowing out as a player?
Many fans and experts are praising this trade because they believe Garnett will be the perfect on-court coach to help mentor Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng into future All-Stars, but I’m not buying it.
Has there ever been a player that helped a team win a championship as nothing more than an on-court mentor? The only player that comes to mind is Jason Kidd with the Mavericks in 2010, but even then he was only 36, not 38, and several talented veterans such as Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler surrounded him. He also averaged 9.1 assists per game and had a Player Efficiency rating of 17.3 that year, so he wasn’t washed up just yet. And while a championship in the next two years is surely unlikely even in Flip Saunders’ mind, it’s obviously the ultimate goal.
Many writers have also been praising Garnett for his leadership, which reportedly involves toilet related activities (which Garnett denied in his introductory press conference on Tuesday).
Garnett will definitely bring a new atmosphere to the Wolves locker room, but change isn’t always for the best. All year I have heard time and time again about the Wolves positive locker room chemistry, but Garnett’s presence will most likely bring a stricter presence. There’s already a report that LaVine is scared of his new neighbor.
When it comes to actual on-court matters, Garnett is still able to contribute defensively. According to ESPN, he ranks 18th in the NBA among all qualified players in Defensive Real Plus or Minus. Because big men generally are not required to make quick lateral movements, centers and power forwards tend to age well defensively. It’s one of the reasons why guys like Tim Duncan and Tyson Chandler continue to be great rim protectors even as their bodies slow down.
Unfortunately, Garnett has struggled offensively. The 2004 MVP currently ranks 336th among 490 qualified players in Offensive Real Plus or Minus. He also has a PER of 14.90, which is a hair below the league average (15). Garnett’s best (and possibly only) offensive talent this late in his career is his ability to hit the long two, which is infamously known for being the least efficient shot a player can take. In fact, according to his 2014-15 shot chart (courtesy of Vorped.com), Garnett takes more shots from mid-range than anywhere else on the court.
There’s also the problem with the trade itself, of course. The Wolves traded a Miami Heat first-round pick for Thaddeus Young, and then traded Young for Garnett, which means by the transitive property that the Wolves traded a first-round pick for a 38-year-old bigman a decade past his prime. The trade left many folks scratching their heads
But according to Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune, Flip Saunders believes he made the right move.
If we’re talking strictly nostalgia reasons, then this move is a home run. Even non-Wolves fans can appreciate the story of a once-great player returning to where his career began. Garnett’s return is very similar to LeBron’s decision this past summer to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers (which Garnett also acknowledged).
Garnett’s career is nearing it’s unfortunate end, but his second adventure in Minnesota is just getting started. This acquisition could result in a Larry O’Brien Trophy, or it could just inflate the Wolves’ jersey sales for a few months. Either way, it’s a fun time to be part of the pack.
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