The Tragedy of Kevin Garnett

The sportswriters selected Steve Nash as MVP this season. I have noted previously that Steve Nash had a very good season, ranking in the top 10 in Wins Produced. Previously I also argued that Jason Kidd was a bit better, ranking second overall in Wins Production and first among point guards.

But even Kidd was not the most productive player in the league. As Malcolm Gladwell revealed yesterday on his website, I analyzed the 2005-06 season and the player who led the league in Wins Produced was Kevin Garnett. Garnett finished the season with 26 Wins Produced. This marks the fourth consecutive season Garnett has been the most productive player in the NBA. Yet the sportswriters didn’t show KG any love when it comes to the MVP voting. Not a single sportswriter named him on an MVP ballot. He also wasn’t named to the All-NBA First Team, Second Team, or Third Team.

The problem for KG is not his game, but his teammates. In 2002-03 Garnett produced 31.5 wins. The rest of his team produced 15.1. The next season Garnett produced 30.5 wins while the rest of the T-Wolves produced 25.3 victories. The increased productivity of his teammates allowed the writers to notice Garnett and give him the league MVP award.

In 2004-05, as we note in the book, Garnett was essentially the same player who won the MVP. He produced 30 wins, but his teammates only produced 14.8 victories. This past season, just to make life even less fun, his teammates only produced 9.4 wins. So over the past four seasons, Garnett’s teammates have averaged 16.1 wins per year. Although Garnett is averaging close to 30 wins per season, it is not enough to overcome the performance of his co-workers.

This past season no player in the league had less productive teammates. Only two of his fellow T-Wolves posted an above average wins production per-minute played – Wally Szczerbiak and Eddie Griffin – and one of these was traded away during the season. And Griffin was only barely above average.

And that is the tragedy of Kevin Garnett. Year after year he is the most productive player in the league. And year after year he plays with many players who are not only not average, but quite a bit below average.

I should note that KG’s Wins Production has declined each of the past four seasons. He still leads the league, but the difference between him and everyone else gets smaller each year. Soon Father Time will take its toll and KG will no longer dominate the NBA. Hopefully before that happens, he finds a few co-workers who can help him achieve the recognition his performance indicates he clearly deserves.

— DJ

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