Seeing as I wasted the title of this article on a Foreigner lyric I'll tell you right away what the underlying question of this is... Would our team be at its best if we enter next season with Love as our center? It's something I've been piddling around in my head for nearly the whole season... Please, hear me out.
First, I should give you the background for why I feel this would be alright. If we were near contention, I believe you do just plug in a center next to Love, and hope he's really good. If we were near a playoff berth, I'd be for that too. If we had a balanced lineup, I believe we would have to keep Love at 4. However, it's hard for me to ignore we're a weird freaking team. First of all, we're a 17-win team. That tells me we really need an infusion of talent everywhere. That point is hard to argue. Secondly, according to almost every singular metric (used for simplicity) available, our 5 best players were Love, Beasley, Randolph, Tolliver, and Ridnour in some order. 4 PF's, and a PG. We're playing Beasley out of position already to force him into the lineup, but we're still relying on the Dark Lord to hold down center for us. If we replace him, and block Love into that spot, we would be filled with a world of versatility. We could go in with a starting front court of any combo of Love, Randolph, Beasley, and possibly Derrick Williams. Sure, we might still be bad. However, we would be a bad team playing as many of its best players as possible. Seeing as we don't have a pick next draft, we legitimately can not finish last in the league. It's not cute anymore. There are no rewards for sucking next year.
The obvious downfall of this potential plan would be defense. Love can't defend a center. I won't claim he can. However, according to PER against, Kevin Love was our best defender (say what?). This tells me one of two things... Love is either an underrated defender, or we've hidden Love in our defense. Let's be honest with ourselves, Love is a pretty bad defender, but this stat tells me that when we go up against a team with a solid PF, Love's probably not guarding them (my eyes tell me that as well). There are only a couple centers in the West who are really going to beat us BECAUSE Love is guarding them... Nene, Marc Gasol, and the Lakers center (Bynum or Gasol, depending on Bynum's injury status). The rest of the centers in the west really aren't going to damage us. On top of that, we can place our 2nd best defender according to O-PER, Anthony Randolph (I hate small sample sizes, but screw it. I'm going with it) on the typically more skilled power forwards. After all, when we're defending the Dirks, Odoms, and Aldridges of the world, is Darko really a more effective defender than Randolph beyond 10 feet of the hoop? My personal opinion is probably not. The other anecdotal point is that many centers rely on put-backs and other garbage points to score. Why not put the Master of Trash on them to take those few points away? Our defense has tons of problems as it is. Love playing center for us would be the least of them, especially if that allowed Randolph to enter the starting lineup and play some weakside defense.
The final point worth mentioning, is that this has worked. For small amounts of time, Kevin Love has played center for us. Shockingly (or not) Love dramatically outplayed his opponents during that time. To put numbers to the concept, he played 18% of our minutes at center this season. During those roughly 8 minutes and 38 seconds per game last year, we were (gulp) better than the other guys? We outscored the other team? To be exact, we outscored opponents by 4.8 points per 48 minutes. Love's PER at center was a potentially league leading 29.8, while he held his opponents to 12.4, for a whopping 17.4 differential. The theory behind the fact could be that with Beasley at 4, opponents were forced to defend both the 4 AND the 5, when most teams only have relevant defenders at one of the two positions. Theoretically, with Randolph at 4, and Love at 5, teams will be forced into the same matchup problems against two pretty good offensive players.
Obviously, I don't expect us to win a championship next year. However, going to a lineup involving Love at 5 could legitimately open us up to a lineup with 5 skilled players. We're going to be bad on defense, but we might be so freaking quirky that it could get us to that vaunted 30-win plateau with the addition of Rubio and a player known as "Upgrade X" coming from the 2 spot.
I was going to include a poll here, but because there is so much that could potentially happen at the 2 spot in the draft, I'd like to hear your thoughts in the comments. Does Love at 5 open us up to drafting the BPA? Would Kanter at 5 have the same effect as Love at 5? Should we try to build like logical teams and get Biyombo as the skill-less defender at 5? What say you? I'd also like you hear some lineup ideas with Love as our theoretical 5 (i.e. who between Wes, Beas, Randolph, or potentially Derrick Williams is the 6th man?) Thanks for your time.