Some interesting parts in Zach Lowes take ...
It’s fashionable to brand Love as empty calories because his Minnesota teams have never made the playoffs in his six seasons. That’s fair, but only to a point. Love spent the first two of those six seasons as an underutilized backup on an awful team. He became a starter in 2010-11, and the Wolves improved only two games — from 15-67 to 17-65. But get up from your chair, grab a barf bag or some other empty receptacle, and gaze upon the roster of the 2011 Minnesota Timberwolves.
It is a horror show. Looking at it for more than five continuous seconds might actually kill you, like watching that tape in The Ring. Kurt Rambis gave huge minutes to one failed project after another in Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic, Wesley Johnson, and more. Two of the Timber Pups who have actually turned into useful NBA players, Nikola Pekovic and Kosta Koufos, barely saw the floor.
The 2011-12 Wolves were playing .500 ball despite another blown top-five pick (Derrick Williams) when Ricky Rubio tore his ACL. Pekovic began suffering foot and ankle issues around the same time, and missed 19 games during the lockout-shortened season. Love got hurt on April 11, and the team fell apart down the stretch. Love then missed all but 18 games of the 2012-13 season.
It’s basically unprecedented for a top-10 overall player to miss the postseason in each of his first six seasons, and it’s fair to argue that an all-timer like LeBron James or Kevin Durant would have found a way to squeeze at least one playoff berth from this team — even given the same miserable draft and injury luck.
But at least dig into the record and ask how many legitimate chances the Timberwolves have really had at a top-eight spot in the West during Love’s career. Love isn’t on the level of Durant and LeBron. No one would argue that, but he’s squarely in the next tier. If you can get that kind of player, you should do it.
Love’s limitations as a defender are real, and I went into them extensively here. He’ll never be able to protect the rim; he can’t jump very high, and he has a shorter wingspan than Green, who is two inches shorter than Love. He has too often acted as the big man’s Dwyane Wade in transition nondefense, and though he gets into the right positions against the pick-and-roll, his presence isn’t going to scare elite ball handlers away from the basket.
His issues on defense have been a part of Minnesota’s yearslong run of catastrophic crunch-time bumbling.1 The Wolves haven’t been able to get stops, and when the score is within three points late in games, they’ve fouled at an absurd rate in some panicked effort to compensate. It’s a glaring point since the Wolves commit an incredibly low amount of fouls per game (third-fewest in the league during the regular season).
Don’t blame Love for Minnesota’s scoring yips in the clutch. He was one of the league’s most dangerous crunch-time scorers last season, and his post game has improved to the point where teams can dump him the ball and count on Love generating a good look. He has a useful righty jump hook from the left block and a smart face-up game.
Love shot 44 percent on a large helping of post-ups last season and drew a ton of fouls, per Synergy Sports. The Wolves scored 0.92 points per possession on trips that Love finished via a post-up play, a mark that ranked 32nd among 117 players who recorded at least 50 post-ups — above guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Tim Duncan, Zach Randolph, and LaMarcus Aldridge.
It’s Love’s shooting that would prove transformative for a Warriors team that ranked just 12th in points per possession last season — unthinkably bad for a team blessed with such marksmanship and passing.
Work like a Captain.
Play like a Pirate.