What do the Nets need out of Kevin Garnett?

Brian Erni

In case you missed the Kevin Garnett media tour, there is plenty of excitement coming from the future Hall of Famer. In China this week, KG polaroidGarnett called this Nets team “championship caliber” and said that he would have “without a doubt” retired if Paul Pierce had not been included in the trade to Brooklyn with him. His former coach Doc Rivers said while Garnett was hesitant at first, he is starting to feel at home with the Nets.

“He’s excited about his new team,” Rivers said. “And he really believes they have a chance of knocking Miami off in the East.”

Strong words from one of the league’s most imposing forces in the last 20 years.

There’s no doubt Garnett raises the stature of this team; in the eyes of the league, fan bases around the country, and his throngs of international fans. And arguably no other player in the NBA commands the amount of respect Garnett does as a leader in the room. But one question that begs to be asked is this: at 37 years old with the wear and tear of 18 NBA seasons on his body, just how much do these Nets need to get out of KG on the court?

On a team littered with All Stars, the simple answer is not much, at least not more than he’s capable of at this stage in his career. And they’ll get plenty out of him if (and it’s a big if) they manage his minutes correctly.

Jason Kidd has already asserted that the team will try to stay away from Garnett on days where the team has back-to-back games. That’s a good start, and if the Nets’ depth is in fact the strength most expect, that should help maximize the return on the Garnett investment. After all, a lack of depth the past two seasons in Boston forced Garnett to play center for the first time in his NBA career. One has to wonder how much of that had to do with his first sub-50% field goal percentage in six seasons.

And for all the reports of his demise, Garnett still averaged nearly 15 points (14.8) and 8 rebounds (7.8) a game in 2012-13 (his career average is 19.1 and 10.5). On a team where he won’t be asked to stretch the floor at all, and will probably will be limited to around 25 minutes a game, what more can you ask for? Garnett can drop the occasional rainbow over a defender, but this is still a player that likes to get his hands dirty, even at his age. Provided the wear of that style of play doesn’t become too much to handle, KG is an upgrade for a team that started Kris Humphries and Reggie Evans at the 4 last year.

With the Nets set to play less isolation, Garnett will be a giant target down low for Deron Williams. And unlike last season with the Celtics, defenders will have to respect the outside shooting threat of Williams, Joe Johnson, and Paul Pierce. That should open up plenty of room down low for Garnett to maneuver, potentially leading to a spike in scoring. Consider this: two of Garnett’s three worst shooting months were after the Rajon Rondo injury.

If Kidd can keep KG healthy, there’s no reason why Garnett can’t be to the Nets what Shaq was to the Heat: a star in his decline that, when used effectively, can still contribute star-caliber minutes.  For a player looking for one final moment in the sun, the execution may just live up to the hype.

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