July 31st. The day synonymous with the Major League Baseball trade deadline, where clubs on the fringe of contention look for one final piece that could make them a true championship caliber team.
Six years ago, the Celtics took a page from baseball's book and transformed their franchise on July 31st, dealing five players and two first round picks to the Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett.
Before the deal the Celtics figured to be an intriguing team in 2007-08. They would have had a starting lineup of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins with Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Ryan Gomes, Glen Davis and Leon Powe coming off the bench. With Jefferson and Rondo beginning to develop into All-Star quality guys, that team would have been good (ok..so the bench would have needed some work). But not good enough.
Instead Danny Ainge pulled off a deal for Garnett, transforming the team's identity into an elite defensive squad that just happened to have incredible offensive weapons at their disposal. The result? The single greatest single season turnaround in NBA history, as the Celtics went from a 24 win lottery team to a 66 win world champion.
While Allen made a profound impact himself, Garnett was the driving force behind the Celtics run these past six years. In just one season the Celtics went from allowing 1.067 points per possession (16th in the NBA) to allowing just 0.989 PPP (best in the NBA) in 2007-08. He was the teams defensive backbone and anchor, who just so happened to average 19 points and 9 rebounds a game as well.
KG's impact barely waned during his six years in Boston as the Celtics had the following defensive ratings during his time here:
2007-08 0.989 PPP (1st in NBA)
2008-09 1.023 PPP (2nd)
2009-10 1.038 PPP (5th)
2010-11 1.003 PPP (2nd)
2011-12 0.982 PPP (1st)
2012-13 1.033 PPP (7th)
Amazing to think that Garnett and the Celtics were actually better on the defensive end in 2011-12 than they were in 2007-08, especially when you consider the fact that KG was 35 years old that season. But that's just who he was.
That defensive presence will surely be missed next season, as the man who erased so many defensive mistakes as the "last line of defense" will no longer be there. As KG aged, he wasn't as consistently an offensive force, and he could no longer play as many minutes, but his defensive ability was seemingly as strong as ever, and now the C's have a gaping hole in their front court.
However, that's something to worry about in October. For now just take a minute to think back to July 31st, 2007. The day that the Celtics franchise was vaulted back into contention thanks to Danny Ainge and Kevin Garnett.
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 7/31/2013 04:06:00 PM Tweet