Analyzing Kevin Garnett’s All-Time NBA Rank


As the Kevin Garnett‘s illustrious career begins to winds down, I think it could be time to start assessing where he ends up in terms of all-time great players.

In Bill Simmons’ 2009 Book of Basketball, for example, Garnett was ranked 22nd, just behind LeBron James. This was obviously before LeBron’s two titles, and this ranking is also coming from a pretty heavy Boston homer in Simmons, immediately after the Celtics had won a title with Garnett in 2008.

I don’t really consider myself a heavy Minnesota homer, so I think I can at least somewhat objectively determine where Garnett stacks up in the all-time great conversation.

More from Timberwolves News

First, let’s set a few loose ground rules. We are going to look at this in terms of the following criteria: Winning, Overall Statistical Output, Teammate Rating, and Personal Accolades.

I’ll lay it out and give Garnett a score between one and ten on each criteria, and then we’ll try to adequately rank him based on his criteria ratings.


I don’t like basing a player’s career solely on championships, and most people seem to use that as their only criteria. However, if that is the only criteria used then a guy like Adam Morrison is better than Kevin Garnett, because Morrison has two championships. Now, it’s easy to scoff at that statement, but if you use the “championships are the only thing that matters” logic, then that’s not a crazy statement.

Winning does play a part in a player’s rank, and while it’s undoubtedly important, it certainly isn’t the only thing. Garnett has one championship (with Boston in 2008), and has only made it to the Finals twice in his career. This criteria does hinder Garnett’s all-time spot, considering he has been on more mediocre teams than good ones. And although many of his teams were able to make the playoffs, they were never able get over proverbial hump.

Take his first stint in Minnesota. As good as Garnett was in 2003-04, that great Wolves team was unable to solve the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals and ultimately shutting that championship window. Part of that can be put on the front office for their inability to surround Garnett with suitable players beyond Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell, of course, but it’s still a factor.

As is customary with the NBA, the wins and losses fall on the star player, and for most of his career, KG was that guy.

Live Feed

Comparing the current-day Boston Celtics to the 2008 title team
Comparing the current-day Boston Celtics to the 2008 title team /

Hardwood Houdini

  • Boston Celtics Rewatch Part 5: Pierce Dagger 3-pointer puts pressure on LeBron, HeatHardwood Houdini
  • Future All-NBAer was almost traded away from Boston Celtics title teamHardwood Houdini
  • Boston Celtics Rewatch Part 4: The Celtics break LeBron in 2010Hardwood Houdini
  • Boston Celtics Rewatch Part 3: Revisiting Banner 17 clinching win in 2008Hardwood Houdini
  • Ranking the 5 worst Boston Celtics starters of the new 'Big 3' eraHardwood Houdini
  • Overall Statistical Output

    Kevin Garnett has the stats to be all-time great, but as he’s gotten older his stats have declined, which is expected. However, if you look at an all-time great like Tim Duncan, his stats have not declined as heavily despite his age.

    Garnett’s have, and quite a bit. In KG’s first stint in Minnesota he averaged 20.5 points per game and 11.4 rebounds per game. In the six seasons since leaving Minnesota in 2007, Garnett’s numbers sit at 13.9 points per game and eight rebounds per game.

    It’s a wide drop-off in what we would consider the two halves of Garnett’s career, and stacking that up against a guy like Duncan it’s almost incomparable.

    Teammate Rating

    This is where Garnett gains ground on other all-time greats, being as though Garnett is the consummate team player. Especially as he gets older, he has been an unbelievable mentor to young guys in Boston, Brooklyn, and now Minnesota.

    Adding to that, I will also throw in Garnett’s drive and passion in the teammate category. I don’t think it’s possible to quantify Garnett’s intensity and drive to win, no matter how bad the team. I can’t speak enough on that factor, because I don’t think there is another NBA player that has that high of level of drive and intensity. I’ll just let Garnett himself sum this up

    Personal Accolades

    2008 NBA Championship

    2008 Defensive Player of the Year

    2003-04 NBA MVP

    15-time NBA All-Star

    9 times on All-NBA Team

    12 times on All-NBA Defensive Team

    The accolades speak for themselves, as Garnett is tied for second all-time in All-Star appearances. I don’t think a whole lot of expansion is needed, the accolades are there and they bolster his resume.


    It’s tough to argue that Kevin Garnett is top-10 or even top-15 player, but a solid argument can be made for him to be in the top-20. Where I think Garnett fits best however, is in the top-25.

    If I had to put a stone-cold number on him, I would say he’s the 24th best player to ever play an NBA basketball game. If we were to compare him to other players in his era, he’s clearly better than, say, Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson, but he’s not better than Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, or Shaquille O’ Neal. To give you an idea of where he truly lands on my list, #25 is Rick Barry and #23 is Scottie Pippen — and that’s a very “open to debate” list.

    No matter how you slice it, Kevin Garnett is without a doubt a top-25 NBA player in history, and Wolves fans are fortunate to have witnessed the majority of an unquestionably Hall of Fame career.

    More from Dunking with Wolves