Sprung: Nets should hope Kevin Garnett retires

GarnettRealistically, the Brooklyn Nets don’t have room for Kevin Garnett next season.

Garnett had by far the worst statistical season of his career in 2013-2014, capped off by a two-point, eight-rebound performance in Wednesday’s Game 5 loss to Miami that eliminated Brooklyn. Garnett scored 24 points total in the five games against the Heat and is a sad shell of his former self on the floor.

Garnett is scheduled to make $12 million next season in the final year of his contract and is considering retirement, which would be a huge favor to Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov at this point in terms of luxury taxes. Garnett could elect to return to the team next season, but would he do so knowing that he is not nearly the player he once was?

Garnett is still a vocal and emotional leader and a positive influence on his teammates, but think about the Nets’ roster for next season. Brook Lopez will likely return from his foot injury that sidelined him for the majority of the season, and it would make sense for Mason Plumlee to start at power forward alongside Lopez, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Paul Pierce, if he returns.

Andray Blatche (assuming he decides to return) and Andrei Kirilenko provide strong frontcourt depth, and playing time would be further muddled if the team re-signs Shaun Livingston, whose versatility was so instrumental in Brooklyn advancing as far as it did in the postseason.

Would the Nets have the ability to be a far better team without Garnett? Undoubtedly so. Here are all the career lows Garnett set this past season, an indicator of how far he’s fallen:

GarnettNumber
Minutes20.5
FG %44.1
Points6.5
Assists1.5
Blocks0.7
Steals0.8
FTA0.9
PER13.3
TS %46.7
O Rating93
Win Shares1.2
WS/480.054

 

Would KG – undoubtedly a future Hall-of-Famer with a lot of pride – be okay with playing fewer than 20 minutes per game next season for a team with enough quality frontcourt depth without him? Garnett basically has become a defensive specialist, because his 93 points scored per 100 possessions is something that could drag the Nets down offensively next season.

Right now, Garnett brings the right attitude and culture to the team, but not the production. He turns 38 on Monday, so it’s hardly a stretch to think that his production could fall off even more next season. Just look at his dropoff from 2012-2013 to 2013-2014:

KGMinFG%PPGRPGAPGBPGFTAPERTS%ORateDRateNetWSWS/48
12-1329.749.614.87.82.30.9319.253.51049955.60.133
13-1420.544.16.56.61.50.70.913.346.793101-81.20.054


As you can tell, Garnett’s one-season decline was precipitous. Logic would dictate that his play would fall off even more next season, assuming he can even remain healthy enough to play as much as he did this season. Even if he can maintain the 20 minutes per game he played this past season, he won’t be a better player overall than Lopez, Plumlee or Kirilenko given the expected decline in his production.

If Pierce and Blatche come back, Garnett would realistically be the Nets’ sixth best frontcourt player at $12 million next season. That’s also not taking into account Mirza Teletovic and European player Bojan Bogdanovic, whom GM Billy King said could be in the team’s plans next season.

“I don’t think he has it anymore,” one talent evaluator told SheridanHoops. “The KG we saw this year is the same personality we know in a broken down body with bad knees, no explosiveness and no lift. He needs to decide whether he wants to have a season where he plays 10 minutes a game or wants to hang ‘em up.”

Garnett did not talk to the media after Wednesday’s game, opening things up to speculation about how things will shake out between player and team. Coach Jason Kidd said Thursday that the team would love to have Garnett back next season, but it’s tough to know when it’s the right time to retire and call it quits.

(RELATED: Scotto: Brooklyn’s Gamble on Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce Failed; Uncertainty Ahead)

If the Nets were smart, they would coax Garnett into retirement and move forward. Yet a player of Garnett’s caliber and stature deserves to leave the game on his own terms.

If KG returns to the Nets next season, he will do so knowing he is not even close to the player he once was.

And in truth, the Brooklyn Nets would be better off if he left the game for good.

Shlomo Sprung is a national columnist for SheridanHoops who loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is SprungOnSports.com. You should follow him on Twitter.

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    • jerrytwenty-five says

      That is true for getting Pierce to re-sign (money not a concern) and not to worry about the Repeater Tax for the 2015-2016 season. KG would actually hurt the Nets if he stays, and his athletic ability degrades further. KG proved that he can’t guard PFs. Brook+Blatche+Plumlee is more than adequate to cover the Center position, better than KG.

      Proky’s money will allow him to offer $6 million for KG NOT to play, but rather joining the coaching staff and work with Lopez and Plumlee to see them develop. It would also guarantee that Pierce is back.

      Tomorrow Nets will learn if DWill will be able to resolve his ankle problems, by having the surgery that he never agreed to last spring.

  1. jerrytwenty-five says

    KG definitely hurt the Nets on the court. Kidd felt obligated to give KG all the possible chances to play, that his body could endure. The “Good Blatche” helped the Nets more than KG, IMO, but wasn’t used much. Kirilenko was more effective at Center than KG, in the final 2 games. I fault Kidd for playing KG as the only Big for most of the playoffs. At the very least, Kidd should have had Kirilenko playing whenever KG was in game. KG+KG+DWill were a very effective combo, during the little time they played together.

    Yesterday, owner Prokhorov said that he’s going to continue next season where Nets left off. That implies support for KG. KG is guaranteed $12 million, but Jason Kidd commented that he advised KG against being carried off the court to end his career (a hint that KG should retire). What likely will happen is that KG will be bought out of his $12 million contract (for say 6 million) with the condition that he doesn’t play for any other team.
    Ideally for Nets, KG should be named the Big Man Coach (for Lopez and Plumlee). This would be the best of both worlds.

    Not known by most of the public, but revealed by the Nets Beat writers, was that KG was suffering (in pain) when he wasn’t playing and in the public eyes. He moved slowly.
    I can’t imagine KG, who has earned over $300 million during his career, wanting to go through this for another year, when the Nets would be willing to pay him not to play. By being the Big Man coach, he can enjoy the benefits of winning. It would also all but guarantee Pierce’s return for a 2 yr contract (Nets can offer more than any other team).

    The big question for Nets will be whether Billy King receives the OK for team to be penalized with the Repeater Tax by being over the Luxury Tax during the 2015-2016 season. With all the taxes that Proky will continue to be paying, the Tax Apron could move above 85 million for July 2016, when Kevin Durant becomes a free agent and opens the possibility of a S&T by OKC to Brooklyn (hint). By then, Nets will be able to throw in a few 1st round picks again.

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