Kevin Garnett is in the twilight of his career. He's 38 years old, and will finish this season near, or past, the 50,000 minute mark for his career. Despite so many miles on his long legs, along with a season that was painful to the eye last year, Garnett is playing great (for a 20-year veteran) basketball this season.
The former NBA champion is playing more efficiently this season by nearly every standard. His field goal percentage is up, his offensive and defensive ratings are improved from last year, and he looks significantly more comfortable on the floor compared to his first season in Brooklyn.
It is hard to quantify a player looking healthy, but Garnett has found what was a lethal weapon for him in both Minnesota and Boston, his post game. Garnett has seemed to regain strength in his lower body and doing a much, much better job of getting his shot to fall from inside the paint. This season, he is shooting more than 11 percent better at the rim compared to last season, and nearly 10 percent better from inside the paint. Garnett is a unique player with his length and deft shooting touch. His ability to find his shots inside the colored area, and now hit them once again, has been an integral part of KG's success in year two with Brooklyn.
After the injury to Brook Lopez last season, KG said that he did not like playing center as opposed to his native power forward position. While the team improved because of the position change, Garnett still wasn't content. When asked about playing the five once again (he played center quite a bit in Boston), he voiced his concerns. "Should've put that s- in my contract," Garnett joked about playing only power forward. "Don't tell Jason I said that."
Well, Garnett has played 75 percent of his minutes this year at power forward and it seems to be yielding more production from him. Last season he played 76 percent of his time at the center position, and banging around with bigger bodies in the paint could have forced him into less ideal shots and have led to his struggles.
Lionel Hollins played a traditional two-big starting lineup when he coached the Memphis Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals several years ago, and he is doing the same thing with KG and Brook Lopez. KG is defending guys closer to his size, and in most cases, smaller, which has led to him playing more efficient defense. When "The Big Ticket" is on the floor, the Nets are allowing 100 points per 100 possession, the average mark in the league.
Even though KG is a shell of himself on the defensive end, he has been a plus defender this season. Many thought that Garnett would struggle to keep up with stretch fours, but when he defends a three-point attempt, players shoot 11 percent worse than when Garnett is contesting it, per NBA.com.
What has been the biggest improvement though for Garnett, from watching the games and looking at the numbers has been his rebounding. The big man has a total rebound percentage of 20 percent this season, .03 percent off of his career high in 2004. Total rebound percentage is defined by Basketball Reference as an estimate of the percentage of available rebounds a player grabs when he was on the floor. That means he's snagging one fifth of all rebounds when on the floor. That is the sixth best percentage in all of the NBA, per Basketball Reference.
For a team that struggles to rebound as much as the Nets do, KG has made up for it by working his tail off to get into position to grab the ball off the rim. The number five pick in the 1995 Draft is playing 24.2 minutes per game this season, but when stretched out to 36 minutes, his rebounding numbers are even more impressive. Per 36 minutes, Garnett is averaging more than 12 rebounds per game, along with 11 points per game.
Garnett may be --or may not be-- in the midst of his farewell tour, but he is playing his best basketball in Brooklyn. Now, the rest of the team needs to pick up the slack.