Kevin Love was one of the best players in the league at one point. He was an All-Star by 22 and averaging 26 points and 13 rebounds by 23. Kevin Love at one point was in consideration for the MVP and had one of the most incredible seasons for someone his age in 2011-12. Had Love been doing that on a team that was winning, he would’ve probably walked away with the MVP trophy that season. But Love didn’t. And then he had his falling out in Minnesota after doing ‘knuckle pushups’ and eventually netted the Timberwolves Andrew Wiggins after Love decided he wouldn’t resign in Minnesota. It has overly been considered a ‘blessing’ for many Wolves fans and considered ‘one of the worst trades ever’ already by many NBA fans.
But what happened? How did Kevin Love end up being the guy that has a GoFundMe created for him in the Finals to not play in Game 6? How is he the most hated max player in the league and not only by Wolves and Cavs fans?
Well, let’s start long ago. Love came to Minnesota on a draft day trade for O.J. Mayo. The Wolves already had Al Jefferson, the franchise’s replacement at power forward for Kevin Garnett. Love played well for a rookie and then better as a sophomore to the point where he played Al Jefferson out of town. What made Kevin Love great was that he improved on something new each season. First it was his post-game. Then he developed his outlet pass and his ability to pick-and-pop. He improved his rebounding, especially on the offensive boards. Then, he worked on adding a 3-point shot that would really change the game. At the height of Kevin Love’s game, he was a 3-point shooting, outlet passing, and rebounding machine. His defense never seemed too important; it was hidden beneath his offensive production.
The league was taken aback by Love’s ability to play inside and outside. Love found ways to score off of offensive rebounds, in the post and behind the 3-point line. This gave way for the league to change the way the traditional power forward was being used. Relevant big men in the league at the time included Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Roy Hibbert, Josh Smith, and David Lee. These guys played significant roles in the success of their teams.
In the time that David Lee would fall off the face of the earth and Draymond Green would begin starting in Golden State, teams began finding ways to stop the three-point shooting big. The league began playing people at the 4 that were capable defenders and/or shooters. The league moved behind the three-point line and the stretch-4 was developed. Guys like Carmelo Anthony and Luol Deng now are getting away with playing power forward. As smaller and smaller guys began playing the four, Kevin Love should’ve been able to eat them for dinner, right?
Wrong. When Kevin Love went to Cleveland, he went with the league trend and camped outside the 3-point line in hopes of stretching the floor. What it did was allow for teams to play smaller forwards to guard Love on the perimeter and not have to worry about him on the block. Love couldn’t play inside because it would impact Kyrie Irving and Lebron James’ ability to drive the lane. Even when the Cavs have tried to use Love in the post, he looks like he has lost a step and isn’t as effective anymore..
Love is often overlooked for his part in the influence of moving the league behind the 3-point line. The Warriors were absolutely the greatest influencers in how the league has changed, no doubt. But the kickoff may have been started by Love as a ‘3-point contest winning’ Power Forward. The issue comes in when Love turned himself into a one-dimensional player and focused only on 3-point shooting. He wasn’t used enough in the offense and was too much of a liability on defense. He now is vanishing from games and probably shouldn’t play in the fourth quarter because what makes him different than James Jones? Richard Jefferson is getting playing time because he can score in a couple ways still but still plays decent defense.
It is absolutely bad for the game to see a player like Kevin Love play himself out of relevancy, but he simply didn’t adapt. He didn’t adapt like he did early on in his career.