When Kevin Garnett first left Minnesota in 2007 to join Boston, it's probably safe to say that most fans didn't expect to see him back in a Wolves jersey. However, that's exactly what happened last season when President of Basketball Operations and head coach Flip Saunders finagled a trade with Brooklyn that brought KG back to Minnesota.
Garnett was the super star that put the Timberwolves on the map when he entered the league in 1995. Now facing his 21st season in the NBA, what can we expect from the Big Ticket in 2015-2016?
No longer an 18-year-old kid, KG's minutes have been considerably decreased over the past couple of years. During the 2014-2015 season, spending roster time with both Brooklyn and Minnesota, Garnett averaged 6.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game over 20 minutes on the floor.
After the trade and returning to his old stomping grounds, the veteran played only five games. Over that handful of games, Garnett averaged 7.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per night.
Heading into the upcoming season, what kind of production can we expect from 39-year-old Garnett? One thing we know for sure: he will start.
In a Q & A with Grantland's Zach Lowe, Saunders said the following:
"[Kevin]'s gonna start. That's who he is. KG is a starter. He's the best power forward on our team, actually. No one rebounds better. He's the best help defender. No one communicates better. He knows the offense, and he can pass it."
Does this mean that Garnett will be spending 40 minutes on the floor per game? Absolutely not. It's fair to expect his minutes to hover around the 20-minute mark, but Saunders doesn't want to play him off the bench.
All that being said, I think we can expect to see -- barring injuries, of course -- a similar production from Garnett this season. Assuming he averages the 20 minutes, and probably has a few "rest" games scattered through as well, it's safe to expect scoring totals in the 6-10 point range. KG may not be a huge asset point-wise, but he excels on defense. That's not something that we've seen slow down much as he's gotten older. Especially since the Wolves have struggled on that end for the past several seasons, having someone as defensively aggressive and intelligent as Garnett will automatically benefit Minnesota.
In addition to the on-court contributions, Garnett offers a vast amount of invaluable insight for the team's younger players. Although Garnett has gained a reputation for being less-than-cordial to opponents, there are multiple other accounts of him being a fantastic teammate.
The coaches are relying on him to be a type of coach in his own right from the bench. In his short time with the season last year, he proved he is more than ready to fill that role. Garnett offered mentorship for guys like then-rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine; this year, he will be able to work with Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyus Jones.
And let's not forget -- if Nikola Pekovic doesn't hustle a bit more... Garnett will "gently" nudge him in the right direction.
Making the Record Books
With such a storied career, Garnett has worked his way toward the top of the record books in several areas:
- All-time games played. Garnett is currently tied with Kevin Willis for fifth place with 1,424 games played. In the first game he plays this season, he will have the slot to himself.
- All-time minutes played. With 49,862 minutes recorded, Garnett is expected to pass both Elvin Hayes (50,000) and Jason Kidd (50,111) for third place around November or December. In order to catch Karl Malone (54,852), he would have average more than 30 minutes per game for more than two full seasons.
- All-time points scored. Garnett ranks No. 15 in NBA history with 25,949 points heading into the 2015-2016 season. Tim Duncan is still holding strong in 14th place, however, and it doesn't look like KG will pass him.
Garnett remains, of course, the greatest player in Timberwolves history. No matter what happens on the court this season, having KG finish his career in a Wolves jersey is a great thing for long time fans of the franchise, and allows us to celebrate his career where it all began.