According to NBA.com’s John Schuhmann, both Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett should be named to the NBA’s First Team All-Defense.
Here’s what he said about Rondo:
Rondo still isn’t the most disciplined defender, but with some encouragement from Doc Rivers, he’s done a better job of staying in front of his man. With long arms, strong hands, quick feet and great anticipation, he’s always been a disruptive force in the backcourt.
The opposing point guards on our list shoot slightly below average against Boston, but the Celtics’ biggest strength defensively is forcing turnovers. And the league leader in steals is responsible for a good amount of those.
The one defensive play by Garnett that stands out from this season is probably not one he’d like to be remembered for. Rashard Lewis drove baseline around Garnett for the game-winning bucket in the final seconds of the Magic’s 96-94 win over the Celtics on Jan. 28 in Orlando, in front of a national TNT audience. For some observers, that play summarized how the Celtics have fallen off since they won the championship two years ago.
But Boston’s problems are more about the other end of the floor. They’re still an elite defensive team, and though his mobility has been limited, Garnett is still the biggest reason why. The Celtics have allowed just 97.2 points per 100 possessions with Garnett on the floor. That’s the second lowest on-court efficiency in the league among players who have logged at least 1,200 minutes.
I’m not going to spend much time discussing Rondo. He deserves first team, absolutely. It isn’t just that he gets steals, it’s how he gets them, and what he does with them afterward. He is more disruptive than any other player in the NBA, and quite possibly the quickest to loose balls. He doesn’t just go after steals, he attacks them. And, once he gets them, he’s headed off the other way to get his team a bucket. He still spends a little too much time gambling, but the Celtics can live with it because of all the good that comes from his gambles.
Now, on to Garnett. I was — how should I say this? — very surprised to see his name on Schuhmann’s first team. If you’ve watched Garnett play this year, you know he isn’t nearly as quick as he used to be. Once masterful at moving his feet and staying in front of people, Garnett has been roasted by the likes of Kris Humphries, Al Harrington, Rashard Lewis, and Matt Bonner this season. KG used to be able to match up with anyone, from point guards to center, and I’m not even exaggerating. He would pick up point guards fullcourt, then switch back onto a center and make his life miserable in the post. And he’d play great team defense, too.
Now, the team defense is the only part of KG’s defensive repertoire that keeps him a weapon when the C’s opponent has the ball. He’s still as good as any player in the league as a team defender. He has unbelievably active hands, and always seems to deflect and disrupt passes in the lane. He rotates well, shows on screens, and always seems to be in the right place to affect a play.
But can you really put someone on the First Team All-Defense team, when he struggles to stay in front of his man? As good as KG remains as a team defender, he’s become nothing more than average when defending the ball. He’s not as bad as certain clips would lead you to believe, but he’s far from lockdown.
And, in my opinion at least, “far from lockdown” defenders shouldn’t make First Team All-Defense, no matter how helpful they are to their teams. At this point, Garnett’s defense is similar to Larry Bird’s in Bird’s prime: Great help defenders, terrific position defenders, but too slow laterally to shut down the opponent’s best player. And Larry never made better than Second Team.
It pains me to say, but Garnett isn’t as elite a defender as he used to be, and doesn’t deserve First Team honors.
Second Team? Maybe.