Dwight Howard is an NBA SuperStar. Dwight Howard is an NBA SuperStar. Dwight Howard is an NBA SuperStar. The calls will dry up in the playoffs.
OK, now that i have that out of my system--and now that I have displayed my Wolves homerism--let's get on with the recap.
The Wolves came out tonight playing some genuinely fantastic basketball. The hustled. They went after loose balls. They played good team defense. Kevin Love controlled the boards. As good as it seemed (and it was awesome), I just couldn't quit the thought that they (and the Magic) fully understood what was going to happen at the 1/2: Stan Van Gundy was going to remind his team that they were the superior team and they would come out with guns-a-blazing in the 2nd half.
The Magic did, and the Wolves turned the ball over at an impressive clip in the opening minutes of the 3rd and the Wolves, once again, allowed an opposing team to Flip the Switch and win a game that was the Wolves' there for the taking.
I have to go out and finish up the Honey Do list for the weekend, but I do want to throw in this talker: Is Kevin Love worth a Max Deal? Where would this team be without him? It is almost too crazy to think about. He is a 22 year old forward with a game to kill for, but he still has some very pronounced weaknesses. Is The Plan "build around Kevin Love?"
What say you?
UPDATE below the fold.
Just a quick reminder to everyone that the flag and rec buttons are your friend. We simply don't have the time or resources to read every comment on this blog but we also want to make sure that open discussion is allowed and encouraged. That being said, the name calling needs to end, post haste. If you don't value this aspect of the site, then either find a way to do so or go somewhere else. I'm more a fan of simply axing name-calling comments than banning, so I'll stick with that for now, but please keep in mind that when I ax a comment, everything in that particular thread goes away as well.
As for the night's question, my take on it is that the NBA is a market and that Kevin Love is going to be in fairly high demand. The question cannot be answered in a vacuum. Someone out there is going to pay Love a large chunk of change. Do you want this team to be the Wolves? His market is fairly set. Take a look at what guys like David Lee and Joakim Noah make. Not only is this a question of what he's worth on his own, but it is a question of what other teams are willing to pay.
Let's also throw Mike Beasley into the mix. He is in the same draft class as Kevin Love and he's on the same salary time line. Guys like Rudy Gay and Joe Johnson set the market for guys like this. Is he worth a large deal?
I bring this up because for all of the talk about cap space that this team has accumulated, this is the place where the majority of it will be spent. It's a fairly large chunk of this team's future prospects. If they are going to build around Love, Beasley, and Rubio, that's about $20 million more than what they are currently spending if they are signed to fair market deals for the type of production we think they are capable of (and Rubio's rookie scale salary).
This also underscores the timeline by which the Wolves can add additional players to the roster while maintaining the rights that allow them to match or re-up existing players. The current CBA allows for current cap space to be used up until this year's draft (actually, the start of July). They have a lot of flexibility until the trade deadline. They have a little less until draft day. They have...well, no one knows what will happen with the CBA after July 1st.
Anywho, back to the Love thing for a moment. Since December 1st, Love has a raw +/- of +11. If you throw in bench time and opposing player nets/48, he has a net +/- of +22.2. That is a fairly hefty chunk of near .500 ball from the team's best player. When he's on the court, the Wolves are competitive as hell, at least relative to what we have seen from the club in recent years.
Throwing this around to last night's game, the Wolves are also getting significant positive production from another player: Corey Brewer. Last night, Brewer kept things close with his high-energy play on both ends of the court. He recently earned himself a spot in the starting lineup because of his play in the 2nd half against Wes Matthews, but his good play has stretched even farther into the past. Since December 1st, Brewer has a raw +/- of +31. With adjustments for 48 minutes and opponent court time, his raw is +11.8.
Darko Milicic and Luke Ridnour also find themselves with positive nets since December 1st (6.7 and 9.5). Wes Johnson comes in with a raw negative and a net positive (0.6). The rest of the team is mired in negative production.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of this season plays out with regard to rotations. My sense from watching the last few games is that the Wolves really need to give some thought to playing Brewer and Wes at the 2/3 with Beasley anchoring the 2nd unit. The 2nd unit is killing this team right now. This team has dug itself such a hole in the backcourt that something needs to change. Brewer's last few games at the starting 2 have been something of a revelation. Luke Ridnour has also started to post net positive numbers at the 1. Are these long term solutions? I don't know. What I do know is that both Brewer and Wes seem to be better fit at the 2 and the 3 respectively than they do being pushed into a lineup determined by Beasley at the 3. This is a pressing issue for a number of reasons; most of all because the team will have to make a decision on Beasley's contractual future in the coming months. Is Beasley a better player than Wes? Probably, but Brewer + Wes at the 2/3 is better than Brewer/Wes at the 2/3 and we have a growing body of evidence to tell us as much.
10 win teams shouldn't get rid of good players, but they also have to deal with what they have, no matter how ill-fitting it may be. How should the Wolves deal with the situation at the 2/3?