Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Disappearance of KG's Offensive Ferocity

A third of the way through the NBA season, the heralded Celtics’ weaknesses are beginning to show through. In losing three of four on a west coast trip, many think the sky is falling for this team. It is not. Most of the analysts are quick to point to the turnovers (Most turnovers per game in the NBA), which is very valid. Between errant passes and offensive fouls, the Celts are turning the ball over at an alarming rate, and their decent assist numbers still leave them in the bottom of the league in Assist-to-Turnover ratio.

That said, I’d like to point out another issue for the team: Kevin Garnett.

Defensively and from a leadership perspective, KG is still KG, yelling, pounding the floor, rotating hard and fast on defense. On offense, on the other hand, he’s playing less of a PF-style game than Lamar Odom these days.

While many commend his willingness to defer to teammates in the offense, let Rondo run the show, and knock down mid-range shots, I disagree. KG is a 6-11, 250lb freak of nature, and should play as such on offense. He should be able to generate half his point in the post, easily, especially against some of the lesser big men in the league these days.

In reality, KG seems content to, aside from the occasional alley-oop, take more and more mid-range and even long-range jumpshots, which may be the way to go with Shaq or Joel Pryzbilla defending, but otherwise is counterproductive. Some games this method works out very well, as KG hits a high percentage of jumpers (November 12th vs. Atlanta), but the law of averages makes the other games painful.

Let's look at the shot charts (CBS Sportsline) for KG for the four game west coast trip:

Top: Lakers (Left), Warriors (Right)

Bottom: Kings (Left), Blazers (Right)

The Lakers game is a great example of the deceiving deep KG game. He's great from midrange, pulling Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol out of the lane and making them pay for leaving him open. Kobe simply wouldn't let the Celts win this game, however. The Kings game is another example of good mid-range shots, and the Celts own big here.

Look at the number of outside shots taken by KG against the Warriors, the smallest team in the league, and will little success, because a small quick team can be quick enough to challenge an outside shot. By the time the Celts reached Portland, they realized KG in the post was vital to the offense, but ran into Greg Oden and Pryzbilla, which ended poorly with fadeaway jumpers.

In general, a pattern of outside shooting that I'll hope the Blazers game was a sign the team is getting away from.

Here's a rundown of KG shot selection for the four game trip, plus five close or OT games from the past month or so:
  • @LA (L): 3/3 Dunks, 1/1 Layups, 7/10 Jumpers
  • @GS (L): 1/1 Dunks, 1/1 Layups, 3/12 Jumpers
  • @SAC (W): 1/1 Dunks, 3/3 Layups, 7/8 Jumpers
  • @POR (L): 1/2 Dunks, 0 Layups, 6/14 Jumpers
  • @ATL (W, Dec 17): 1/1 Dunks, 1/3 Layups, 5/11 Jumpers
  • @IND (W, Dec 7): 1/1 Dunks, 0 Layups, 5/10 Jumpers
  • @CHA (W, Nov 29): 0 Dunks, 1/1 Layups, 3/11 Jumpers
  • @MIL (W, Nov 15): 1/1 Dunks, 0 Layups, 5/14 Jumpers
  • vs. ATL (W, Nov 12): 1/1 Dunks, 1/4 Layups, 8/11 Jumpers
In total attempts: 11 Dunks, 13 Layups, 101 Jumpers. For a Power Forward that's known as a beast, that's sad.

This lack of aggression on offense has also led to a severe drop in free throws, also known as free points. In the period from the 2000-2001 season through 2006-2007 season (with MINN) KG shot an average of 6.10 FTA/G, shooting 79.5% from the line. Last year with the Celts, this dropped to 4.73 FTA/G, shooting 80.0% from the line. Currently, KG is at a clip of 2.69 FTA/G, less than half his prior average, shooting 83.7%.

This lack of free throws by Garnett not only means more difficult points for the Celtics, but means that opposing big men aren't racking up as many fouls. As opposing starting bigs get to play more minutes, they help disrupt the slashing of Rondo, the rebounding of Perkins, and so on.

As much as I love seeing KG beat his chest, I'd love more to see him doing it after an And-1 foul than yet another 15ft jumper. Maybe that will get this team back on track.

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