Learning to Love Mr. Love

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As long-time readers of this blog know, I am a seer-of-the-future and I have long maintained that Kevin McHale simply won't be able to lay off young Mr. Love in the upcoming NBA Draft.  

As the running joke looks more and more like it has a chance to become a reality, I decided that it's high time to take a (more) serious look at Kevin Love and what he brings to the table should he end up in a Wolves uniform. 

Let's begin by taking a look at the college stats of two freshman.

Player One:

  • Age- 19
  • Height- 6'9"
  • Weight- 235
  • Mpg- 31.5
  • GP- 33
  • eFG- 56%
  • 3FG%- 37.9%
  • reb%- 41.3%
  • oreb%- 24.3%
  • PPR- -6.72
  • ORtg- 119.8
  • %Poss- 33.5
  • %Shots- 35.7
  • FTrate- 48.4
  • FTA/40- 10.7
  • TORate- 15.

Player 2:

  • Age- 19
  • Height- 6'9"
  • Weight- 255
  • Mpg- 29.6
  • GP- 39
  • eFG- 59%
  • 3FG%- 35.4%
  • reb%- 36.7%
  • oreb%- 28.9%
  • PPR- -2.47
  • ORtg- 126.6
  • %Poss- 27.7
  • %Shots-25.4
  • FTrate-63.5
  • FTA/40- 8.9
  • TORate-14.9

Player 1 is Michael Beasley.  Player 2 is Mr. Love.  Both are tremendously young players with size that puts them in between legit NBA positions.  Comparing their stats, there's not too many numbers that put one player, name removed, over the other. 

Before looking at the numbers, my initial thought would be that if there were large differences between the two players, the difference would mostly speak in favor to Beasley's overall superiority.  While there are some stats that do speak to this gap (Beasley shouldered the load on 1/3 of his team's possessions compared to Love's 1/4 load), Love did a number of things much better than the big fella from K-State. 

First, Love's ORtg is off the charts good.  While he doesn't have the raw numbers of Beasley, Love's eFG, FTRate, and TORate all speak to the fact that he was undeniably efficient with the ball when he got his hands on it.  His OReb% is especially notable; by grabbing the amount of oreb he did (15.2% compared to 13.3 for Beasley), Love made the most of his time on the offensive end of the court on a level every bit as impressive as a guy who racked up a record amount of double-doubles for a freshman.  As far as college performance goes, you'd be hard pressed to say that Beasley was in another league than Love. 

The issue with these stats, and with their games in general, is how they will transfer to the NBA style of play.  Unlike Love, Beasley moves around the court like a big cat; he's fluid, athletic, and can handle the ball like a guard with either hand.  Love, on the other hand, is not nearly as fluid, and is not nearly the ball handler or dribble-drive threat that Beasley is.  Love lacks Beasley's explosiveness, quickness, and all-around athleticism; instead, relying on his superior fundamentals and b-ball IQ to get his work done...and no, this isn't a stereotypical black/white thing; it's just how it is with these two players.  Beasley is a smart player and Love is an athletic one; respectively, they're just not as much as the other.

Perhaps the greatest gauge of how Love will perform at the next level will be his official measurements.  If he is only 6'8" with a modest wingspan and standing reach, he could be the most fundamental player in the world but it will not help him get his shot off in the NBA.  While he had a phenomenal NCAA tourney, Love had his shot blocked a disturbing number of times (13).  To be fair, Love blocked his fair share of shots during the tourney and he showed a defensive prowess that was above and beyond his regular season performance, but it is still troubling to see a guy of his size have that much trouble with getting his shot off. 

Since the end of the college season, there have been numerous reports that Love has his weight under control and that he has increased his lateral speed as well as his overall athleticism.  Still, spare tire or not, if he lacks legit size (and by size I mean wingspan and reach), this is a red flag that will be tough to overlook. 

Getting beyond size and numbers, how would a player like Love fit in with a team like the Wolves?  The biggest obstacle to his placement on the roster is that the Wolves' best player would seem to play the same position as Love.  Can Al Jefferson coexist with Love?  With no other changes to the roster, I would say that this would be a tough proposition.  Presumably, Jefferson would stay at the 5 and Love would man the 4; leaving the remaining lineup as Foye, Jaric, and Gomes.  Should the Wolves pull the trigger on Love, I believe there are two other types of players that they immediately need to bring on board to make the whole thing work:

  1. - A big wing player that can man the 2 or 3.  To me, the ideal player to fit this role is Chris Douglas-Roberts.  I have been calling for a CDR pick since early December.  CDR was the best player on the 2nd best team in the nation; a fantastically efficient player who can dribble-drive as well as hit from outside and defend multiple wing positions. Other players to fit this bill would be Joe Alexander and Chase Budinger (in that order.)
  2. - An athletic center that can guard athletic 4s and 5s. Jefferson logged a lot of minutes at the center position last year.  While he made it through the season with respectable numbers, the biggest problem he had was against athletic players like Amare Stoudemire or Tyson Chandler.  If the Wolves could land a player like Jason Thompson or Devon Hardin--guys who could switch back and forth between the 4 and 5 with Jefferson--the team could absorb some duplicity between Love and Jefferson.

Putting the names with the positions, here's the lineup should such a fortuitous situation occur for Our Beloved Wolves:

  1. Foye/Jaric
  2. CDR/Brewer
  3. Love/Gomes
  4. Jefferson/Love/Richard
  5. Hardin/Jefferson/Richard

It's not ideal, but I think it would work.  In fact, if the team would bring Love on board, they would absolutely need some flexibility at the 2/3 and 4/5. 

Well, that's about all for now.  I'll have more on this later.

UPDATE: One Kevin's love to another from Draft Express:

Reporter: Do you know Kevin McHale? Have you ever talked to him?

Kevin Love: I feel like I know him just from watching the old school tapes back in the day. All the up and unders, all the step backs and the hook throughs. I mean all of those guys, Bird, Parrish, Johnson and Danny Ainge; Landon Ainge played on my high school team. I watched all of those guys, but definitely Kevin McHale was my favorite growing up.

It's simply too perfect at this point for the joke not to work itself out: Love to the Wolves at 3 with no trade-downs or maneuvers. Oh, and the interview gets even better:

Reporter: Have you scheduled a workout with Minnesota?

Kevin Love: I think it’s on the 16th of June, I’m very excited.

Reporter: What part of McHale’s game do you see in yourself?

Kevin Love: If he doesn’t see a little of himself in me or me see a little of myself in him, it’s just weird. I used to watch him all the time growing up and my dad used to have me watch tapes of him and learn all those moves. There’s just so many things in his game that I love. It’s almost like seeing a smaller, bulkier, mirror image of him.

Reporter: Do you think that could possibly sway him when it comes to making a decision?

Kevin Love: Oh I’m crossing my fingers, I hope so. They always say ‘oh you’re not going to like the cold’, well I’m from the rain so I think I’ll be used to it. There’s nothing a good coat and a warm bath can’t get me out to the gym for. Minnesota is a great place.

...

Reporter: How do you think you complement a true low post scorer like Al Jefferson?

Kevin Love: I think I complement him great. He’s such a beast inside that he’s going to draw double teams; so whether I need to go to the high post or step out to the three, with my shooting percentage this year, I think it could be great. Plus that would be a very young nucleus in there as well.

 

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