With the unsourced
news whispers that an Al Jefferson trade is afoot and a Big Piranha/Big Al jealousy battle is in full effect I thought it would be a good time to make a few comments about the situation as well as give a small preview to the upcoming After 40 stats post that essentially reads as little more than Kevin Love Is Really, Really Good.
First, the heart of the Big Al/Big Piranha situation has less to do with whether or not they can coexist on the court, and more to do with whether or not Love, a superior performer, is willing to play for much less than Jefferson at essentially the same position. It also has to do with whether or not David Kahn is interested in dealing out two $10+ mil deals to what amounts to dual power forwards. Keep in mind that Jefferson, Love, and Nikola Pekovic all have the same agent. Remember that this agent was in town last week. What was said about his clients at the meeting with Kahn?
If we are going to talk about performance, it is really hard to overstate just how well Love is playing as a 21 year old big and how much of an impact he has had on the Wolves since his return. For instance, before coming back on December 4th, the Wolves had the 28th worst reb% in the league at .480%. Since his return they are 4th in the league at .526%. By essentially doubling his assist rate and shooting .438% from beyond the arc, Love has diversified his game while losing none of his rebounding edge. The Wolves' offense essentially collapses when he is on the bench, as the team scores 9.1 fewer points per 100 possessions when he is off the court compared to when he out in the thick of things. (The Wolves' defense only takes a 2.8 point hit per 100 possessions when Love is on the bench.) Again, let's imagine that Love improves his conditioning and quickness and that he continues to improve for another 2-3 seasons before entering his prime (at 24, a year younger than Big Al is right now). How on earth do you pay the guy at essentially the same position as a guy who will be due $14 million on the year Love is first eligible for an extension? If Love is averaging something in the neighborhood of 18/13/4 while maintaining his current rebound, turnover, and assist rates, you can forget about Al putting up 20/10 and being considered a superior performer (as if you can't already forget that right now).
Second, if you can turn Al Jefferson into Danny Granger, you do it in a heartbeat. I'll work on a statistical overview in the next few days (I have never really looked at Granger's game before; he's a lot better than I thought) but not only does Granger fill a positional need for the Wolves but he does so without really eating into their additional assets that could also be moved in the coming off season. If you can move Jefferson for a player that does not add to next year's salary cap and who plays on the wing with legit numbers (as Granger does), that is a no-questions-asked must-make deal for Kahn and the Wolves. It's not that Granger is better than Jefferson or that Love and Jefferson can't play together, but that Love + Granger > Love + Jefferson or Jefferson + Granger.
Finally, as I have noted several times this season, I have finally come to the conclusion that the Love/Al pairing is not going to work out for the Wolves. Love's progression has been so good, and his impact on the team so significant vis-a-vis Jefferson, that it's really hard to come up with a justification to head down the path that would keep the aforementioned two $10+ million power forward contracts on the roster . Could it work? Yes. Should it work? Not if you want a balanced and exciting team for many years to come. Someone has to go and if Jefferson can be turned into an above average wing player like Danny Granger, that is a good way for it to happen.
BTW: Is this the official beginning of the Big Al/Big Piranha Death Match? Is it bad karma to even reference the Shaddy/Foye Death Match?
UPDATE: One of the things that really doesn't jive about the Love/Jefferson rumor is the idea that there is some sort of jealous rift between Jefferson and Love. By all accounts we have heard the two are fairly tight (with Jefferson referring to Love as his "son"). My guess on the situation is that Jefferson, Love, and Pekovic are all represented by the same agent and I think it is fairly clear that all three power forwards cannot achieve their full earnings potential on the same squad. If Pekovic is coming over this off-season, and if Love is due an extension in two, maybe professional "jealously" resides solely with the agent.