ESPN's John Hollinger has published his player profiles for the Celtics. Considering most analysts have pegged the Celtics as a faux threat to contend this year, I was surprised by Hollinger's optimistic take on the Celtics Big 4.
Most notable was his analysis of Kevin Garnett:
Garnett looked to be his old self after struggling with knee problems in 2009-10, ranking seventh among power forwards in PER and rebound rate, fourth in steals, and 10th in pure point rating. Once again, the midrange jumper was key: He made 47.1 percent of his shots beyond 10 feet while taking more than six a game. He's still a good finisher around the basket, too, shooting 74.3 percent at the rim, but his struggles on short-range shots show his declining post game — he converted only 33.8 percent from 3-9 feet.
Of course, the offense is just a sideshow — where Garnett really shines is on defense. Opposing power forwards sometimes got numbers on him, but that was because KG was busy shutting down other players with his help defense. The Celtics, already a great defensive team, gave up 6.19 points per 100 possessions fewer with Garnett on the floor, according to basketballvalue.com. His Synergy numbers sparkled (among power forwards, only Chicago's Taj Gibson outrated him) and the more advanced "regularized" adjusted plus-minus metric estimated he was worth more than six points per 100 possessions to Boston's defense (the most of any player in the NBA last season).
Boston has made some adjustments to allow for Garnett's age and all the mileage on his legs. Garnett played only 31.2 minutes a game and missed 11 contests entirely, and his usage will have to be carefully monitored again this season. But he's so long on defense, so efficient on offense and plays so hard on both ends (including a vastly underrated passion for screening), that he's likely to remain an All-Star caliber forward for as long as his knees hold up.
Not bad for an old bastard, not bad at all. Save some of those stats and throw them in the face of ignorant critics (Heat, Lakers fans) who boast "KG is too old."
Here are some excerpts from the other player profiles. And they're not pretty.
It's an interesting scenario as Davis heads into free agency, because the perception of him as a player is well ahead of the reality. He's a solid, do-no-harm third or fourth big man who can defend a variety of frontcourt players reasonably well and space the floor with mid-range jump shots that occasionally go in. That's not just last season; we have four years of data backing up the trend. Throw in his battles with his weight, and a rich long-term deal for him will end up being a mistake.
O'Neal basically can't play offense anymore because of his knees; after working much of the year to get healthy, his late-season cameo left him averaging just 12.0 points per 40 minutes with an abysmally high turnover ratio. His other numbers dipped too, resulting in his career-low 9.22 PER and leaving his future in serious question.
Murphy was worse in virtually every other respect too. His rebound rate declined, he took fewer shots, and he made more turnovers; about the only thing he did at his usual level was defend, and I don't mean that as a compliment. Obviously he'll need to rediscover his shooting stroke to have much value, but don't be surprised if he resurfaces as a major rotation player this season.
Troy Murphy a major rotation player for the Celtics? Lord help us.