I know, I know... Could I pick a more over-discussed topic?
The canned answer is, "Well of course he does. He may be slow getting down the court, but there is much more involved in successfully running the fast break than burning your man and throwing down an alley-oop. Love gets the defensive rebound and quickly delivers the outlet that starts the break. He then has the tools to nail a trailing three in the case that things break down." I like this answer, but it is not the approach I want to take here.
I am more interested in addressing the central assumption that necessitates this argument. Is Kevin Love really too slow at the PF position to be one of the guys breaking free and finishing at the basket? Is this something that Love is just too unathletic to provide a team?
Athleticism is a difficult thing to clearly define, but the physical skill required to make it down the court faster than your opponent is pretty easy to isolate. What we want to know is, "how long does it take a player to run from one end of the court to the other?"
Thankfully there is a stat for that. Draft prospects are timed in a 3/4th court sprint during the combine. This drill measures how long it takes a player to run 3/4th the length of the court. This offers a great opportunity to test the assumption that Kevin Love is just too slow to beat other PFs down the court thus requiring that he provide alternative skills to play PF on a running team. If Kevin Love really is too slow to beat his man down the court it should show up in his 3/4 court sprint relative to other PFs.
I went over to Draft Express and collected the 3/4 court sprint time for a number of different PFs. Let's see where Love fits in this group?
Luc Mbah A Moute 3.17
David Lee 3.19
Tyrus Thomas 3.20
Kevin Love 3.22
Michael Beasley 3.24
Josh Smith 3.24
Amare Stoudemire 3.25
Derrick Favors 3.25
Anthony Randolph 3.26
Blake Griffin 3.28
Al Jefferson 3.29
Chris Bosh 3.30
Paul Millsap 3.30
Carlos Boozer 3.31
Jeff Green 3.34
David West 3.43
LeMarcus Aldridge 3.43
DeMarcus Cousins 3.55
So after going through as many NBA PFs as I could think of (That have their combine stats listed on DX), I only found three players with a faster 3/4 court sprint.
Imagine the following scenario: Love and the PF on the opposing team are standing side-by-side, the other team misses a shot, Darko grabs the rebound, and everyone takes off running... Only Tyrus Thomas, (a young) David Lee, and the hybrid SF/PF Mbah A Moute will beat Kevin to the basket on the other end.
If you don't think Kevin Love is fast enough to run in a fast break you have to say the same thing about: Beasley, Smith, Favors, Amare, Randolph, Griffin, and Bosh... I don't think any of those arguments would get very far.
The most likely retort is "The combine doesn't mean anything, Kevin Love is slow in 'game speed'." I'm sorry, but this just doesn't makes any sense. If you can run 3/4th of the court faster than someone else in a drill, you can run 3/4th of the court in a game. I would love to here how Kevin Love's "in game court sprints" compare to the in game measures of other players; but until it is supported by your findings with a stopwatch and some game-tape, I'm not going to take anyone's subjective impressions of Love's slow footedness seriously. The data is clear. Kevin Love is fast. Kevin Love can beat the vast majority of PFs in the NBA down the court, and will get burned by none of them. At least when it comes to getting down the court on a fast break, Kevin Love can play in a running offense.
Looking at that list and factoring in Love's rebounding and famous outlet passing, maybe the question should be: "Is Love the best NBA PF for a running offense?"