How Kevin Love Played Himself Out

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.

maxresdefault

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.

-53188f39d9820a97

Advertisements

Behind The Smokescreen

Game 5 of the NBA Finals was sprinkled with Timberwolves rumors. Every however many minutes we would see ‘the Timberwolves were actively shopping the 5th pick for Jimmy Butler’ scroll across the bottom line. There would be a ton of fun tidbits that Tom Thibodeau used to coach Jimmy Butler, things that were obvious. The rumors started swirling nationally once everyone got a notification from ESPN on their phones about the rumor and this tweet:

We’ve heard the rumors before. We have seen the photoshopped pictures of Jimmy Butler in a Wolves uniform. This was nothing new. Some may say that ESPN is struggling and they finally got the rumors weeks later. But in the age of the internet, I find that hard to believe. The internet has been the most reliable source of speedy information ever. Just ask Steph Curry’s new ‘Emergency Room’ 2s. The way this story came out, it felt planted.

Over the last couple weekends, I have been absent due to being in class. I was taking a condensed-MBA course that met three times from 8am-5pm called ‘Persuasion & Influence.’ Of course, after taking a class for that long consecutively you not only see everything through the lenses of the class, but you believe everything has do to with the material you just learned. While in the class, I was eager to apply it to everything I could, especially basketball. Well this is one of them. One of the principles of influence, a pretty basic one, is contrast. What the principle says is a way to influence people is through the contrast of one thing to another. There are experiments that prove this to work. One example is having three buckets, one hot, one room temp, and one cold. If you dip your hands in the hot and the cold buckets and then bring both hands into the room temp bucket, your senses will be confused. While both hands are in the same bucket, the hand that was in the hot bucket will feel cold and the hand that was in the cold bucket will feel warm. The contrast principle is used a lot in sales. When selling something expensive, a lot of times a sales person will say in comparison to what.

After that quick lesson in influence, I feel like that is exactly what is happening here for the Wolves. The league knows that the 5th pick will not net Jimmy Butler. Something needs to be added. But what is happening is that the Wolves are essentially raising the stock price on that 5th pick. The 5th pick inherently seems more valuable than it did before the rumors started swirling. Who would ever think that Buddy Hield or Jamal Murray plus another prospect would be worth one of the best two-way players in the league?

This is how the Celtics have gotten into the mix. The Celtics have more assets and a better pick than the Wolves. And a team that just made it to the playoffs, it seems that naturally they would be more inclined to make a deal with the Bulls. If the Bulls were to make Butler available, the first team that would get a call is the Celtics. The only reason they wouldn’t be because they wouldn’t want to send Butler to another team in the East, but when you’re rebuilding that doesn’t really matter. At the same time, chances of the Bulls dealing with Thibodeau are slim to none. The only way the Bulls do a deal with Thibs is if they can ruin his life. The rumors around the deal have mentioned Wiggins plus the 5th pick, which is just about what could ruin Thibs’ life. So unless something crazy happens between now and next Thursday, Jimmy Butler will not be a Timberwolf.

So why? Why did the rumors get thrown out there when it did? Now it’s time to do a lot of speculation. What we do know is the following in terms of draft workouts:

Three tidbits on guys the Wolves will look at in the 5th slot. Jamal Murray was working out in MN the day the rumors came out. Kris Dunn expressed that he will only workout against Ben Simmons, Ingram, or Jamal Murray. Also Buddy Hield hit 85 of 100 threes at a Celtics workout. These are the facts/ credible rumors. Dragan Bender is also coming to work out in MN on Thursday.

Now it is time to take a trip behind the smokescreen. It is time to speculate. There is certainly going to be a lot more that will happen in the next week and a half but for now, we will try to make sense of all this.

First, is there a link between the timing of the rumors and Jamal Murray’s workout? What does this say about Murray’s workout? Was it bad it enough that the Wolves want to move the pick? Is he not worth it there? Could it be an act?

Then there is the Buddy Hield workout with the Celtics. Did Buddy Hield just raise his stock with hitting 85 of 100 threes? Is he a serious candidate for the 3rd pick in this draft? Were the Wolves secretly trying to get him?

I don’t think there is enough there on the Murray or Hield front to speculate that the rumors had to do with them. I do however believe it had to do with Kris Dunn though. Why? Well first, the Wolves were using the contrast influence principle to raise the value of the 5th pick by attaching an All-Star to it like Jimmy Butler. Why you may ask? Because the Celtics or the Suns will want to get equal or greater value now for the 3rd or 4th pick. Now a deal around the troubled Jahlil Okafor doesn’t seem as appealing for the 3rd or 4th pick. The reason that is important is because the Sixers reportedly like Kris Dunn and desperately need a point guard.

Kris Dunn is doing his part as well. After refusing to work out for the Suns and Celtics, he came out and put up conditions that are near impossible to meet, especially a week before the draft. Teams are absolutely going to be concerned about his injuries and how he matches up against other picks in the 3-8 range. The reason Dunn can do this is because he has less to lose. He doesn’t want to go 3rd or 4th. He would be happy to go 5th where he has an opportunity to grow with one of the most exciting franchises and eventually compete for a starting spot if Rubio is to get hurt or demand a trade. The Wolves do have serious interest in Dunn. If he is on the board at 5, I have to believe he is the best player available from the Wolves perspective. The only person I think the Wolves truly consider over Dunn will be Dragan Bender.

If Dunn is the Wolves’ guy behind closed doors, they are putting themselves in a win-win situation. The Wolves are truly interested in Jimmy Butler. If the Bulls bite on a deal, the Wolves are automatically playoff contenders. If not, the value of the pick went up without doing anything. And as the pick’s value is going up, the stock of Kris Dunn is going down as he is an unknown. It will be interesting if this ends up being the scenario that works out because all season long there were jokes about why the Wolves never took Steph Curry in the 2009 NBA Draft. The reason was because Curry refused to workout for the Wolves. It is risky business to draft someone who never worked out for you. The Wolves have already seen Dunn in LA and probably have more information on him in the background.

I am aware there are a lot of Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray fans in Wolves Nation, but the forecast is showing Kris Dunn more and more…

The Timber Rebuilder.

Oh What a Series!

While not Timberwolves related – the Western Conference finals was epic. There is a slew of information and analysis on it so will not bore you with that, but just wanted to walk through how crazy of a series this was between the Thunder and Warriors.

It is no secret I was personally cheering for the Thunder. The Thunder have been a favorite for a while. I have always appreciated Kevin Durant and his humbleness. I even had the chance to meet him and sit down and chat with him. He was the most down-to-earth athlete I ever met. Russell Westbrook is a freak and a joy to watch. Serge Ibaka is a guy I would love to play for the Wolves, especially if we can trade the 5th pick for him (dreaming). Randy Foye was one of my all-time favorite Timberwolves. I always felt Steven Adams would be an amazing center in the league. Heck, I was one of the few that had hope Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones would become great NBA players. So I’ve been following for a while.

The Warriors have always been a team that you have to watch. They are history in the making. As an avid basketball fan, they are impossible to ignore, even hate. But what I dislike is how much they brag. They is no need to showoff after every made bucket, unless you’re Mo Speights hitting a three in Game 7 in the Western Conference finals. What I do respect is how they’ve played with all the pressure on them. They have played the second half of the season as their biggest opponent. They even dropped a game to the Timberwolves as home.  To see how they’ve reacted to the pressure of winning 73 games and having the first unanimous MVP has been so fun to watch. Nothing but appreciation for this team.

Jumping to the series, it was like a classic fictional tale about what the NBA could be. Or a Hollywood film directed by Michael Bay. This series was literally a roller coaster. Quick summaries below. Home team is the second team listed each time.

Game 1: Thunder 108, Warriors 102

The Thunder steal game 1! The Warriors lose a game at home, many believed because they finally faced a worthy opponent. It should’ve been the wake up call the Warriors needed. The Thunder were still not a serious threat. But Russell Westbrook and Durant played amazingly. Westbrook racked up 7 steals along with 27 points and 12 assists. KD added 26 points himself with 10 boards. Curry shot terribly with 9/22 from the field for 26 points. That won’t happen every game.

Game 2: Thunder 91, Warriors 118

This is what we expected for most of the series. Stephen Curry with a casual 28 points on 15 shots. How anyone does that is news to me. Not the closest of games so a fairly spread box score. Series is tied 1-1. The Warriors woke up finally. This should go 6 for the Warriors right?

Game 3: Warriors 105, Thunder 133

In Oklahoma where the Thunder dominate. It wasn’t close. The Thunder dominated in the second quarter and it was both offensively and defensively. The Thunder were never very adequate defensively but somehow they emerged with the Mega-death lineup that had Ibaka at the 5 and Durant at the 4. Durant was a defensive juggernaut using his length to slow down the Warriors’ guards. He had 33 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Russell Westbrook added 30 himself with 12 assists. The Warriors got nothing outside of Thompson and Curry. Even then, the splash brothers combined for 5 total threes. Not their best game. Somehow the Thunder are up 2-1. The next game is pivotal.

Game 4: Warriors 94, Thunder 118

Where the drama begins. The Thunder just have an amazing team effort. Roberson scored a career-high 17 points with 12 rebounds and 5 steals. Ibaka had 17 points as well. To add insult to injury, Westbrook chimed in with a casual triple-double with 36 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. The Thunder’s team defense began to look like one of the best in the league. It was a complete team effort for the Thunder that game them a comfortable lead in the series of 3-1. The Warriors for the first time in two years would face elimination in the playoffs. It seemed that the show was over.

Game 5: Thunder 111, Warriors 120

‘We ain’t going home’ from Steph Curry. The Warriors facing elimination at home. If there was a game that the Warriors should win it was this one. It was close but the Thunder were never able to catch up. The Warriors withstood 40 points from Durant and 31 from Westbrook. The Thunder went for the kill to not avail. Steph had 31 and Thompson added 27. The difference was the rest of the Warriors who came to play. The series would be 3-2 and go back to OKC.

Game 6: Warriors 108, Thunder 101

This was a game! The Thunder were up a good amount of the game. It came down to the last two minutes where the Warriors just took the lead and snuck out. It almost felt certain that the Thunder had this one in the bag. But Klay Thompson set an NBA Playoffs single-game record for threes made with 11. He had a huge 41 points ahead of Curry’s 31. This game was the turning point. With the series at 3-3, Game 7 would be one for the ages.

Game 7: Thunder 88, Warriors 96

A historic game 7. The Warriors became the 10th team to come back from being down 1-3 in the playoffs, which seemed like a cherry on top for what they’ve accomplished this season. The Thunder played a great 1st half holding the Warriors to their 2nd lowest point total of the season. But the second half the unanimous MVP stepped up and stole the show The Thunder didn’t have an answer for him. While the Thunder came back to within 4 points in the final quarter, they just seemed to give up. Roberson gave up a wide open three pointer and then they seemed to quick in the final minute of the game. It was incredible to see Curry score his 36 points in a multitude of ways. The Warriors are headed to the finals to defend their championship.

At some point this summer when baseball is all that is happening, there is a good chance I rewatching this entire series back-to-back. It was that good. The Warriors earned their stripes. And now all the speculation begins around where Kevin Durant may land this summer…

 

The Thunder probably did the Warriors a favor. They woke the giant that the Warriors were went they went on their historic run earlier in the season. The Warriors were coasting late in the season chasing the 72-win record, which I repeatedly said would be a huge mistake. That mistake may’ve costed them the season had they lost in game 5, 6, or 7. But somehow they held on and added to an even more dramatic and historic run.

The finals will be a lot of fun to watch. A healthy Cavs team with a hungry Lebron James get a second shot at a title against the Warriors. LBJ has been quietly making history by going to the finals 6 straight seasons. It will be interesting to see how Kevin Love matches up in this series. Not because he is the man we love to hate in Minnesota but because he will be the easiest of the big three to eliminate from being relevant on the floor due to his defensive woes.

See you all in the finals!