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Is Kevin Love Worth a Max Contract?

 

I was thinking about K-Love and his impending free agency the other day while his Double-Double streak was going down in flames against the Warriors, and I came to the personal decision that I don’t think he’s worth a maximum contract extension.  Whether it’s under the parameters of the current CBA, or the yet-to-be-determined financial structure of the inevitable new CBA. Clearly our team would be worse without him, but I’m not sure paying him as much as possible is good for the long-term future of the franchise.  And here’s why:

The reason I’ve been thinking so hard about this, is because of how easy it appeared for an average (at best!) David Lee, and absolutely terrible Warriors team defense, to shut down Love and render him almost completely useless Sunday night. Yes, he had a bad game. But it can, and will, happen more often if teams actually care about trying to stop him. They know the rest of our subpar team can’t beat them, so it usually doesn’t matter if K-Love gets his stats. Remember his last game against the Lakers before he started the DD streak? 0 points and 7 rebounds in 34 minutes.

If teams care enough, they can shut him down, rendering him mostly ineffective. What I mean is, it’s relatively easy to keep Love from helping a team win games. Yeah, he might still get some stats, but big deal as long as the other team wins the game. Who cares if he gets a double-double if you still win the game, ya know? Frankly, our team stinks like a rotten corpse, so you can let K-Love do his thing and still beat the TWolves pretty easily. (At least, most teams can. Some teams suck just as much as us.)

As “Wolfenstein” said in a similar discussion in the TWolves Blog Forums, Love creates opportunities for the team without greatly improving his teammates’ opportunities.  That is great and all, and valuable, but doesn’t exactly lead to a lot of winning games. He also rebounds rebounds and throws outlet passes (sometimes.) He can also hit threes, which is valuable (don’t get me wrong here.) He scores points with a low usage, mostly because of his hustling and energy (that’s seriously not just a white guy comment.)  While this is all valuable, it clearly isn’t helping us win games this season. We have 17 wins. Someone has to score points every game.

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  I mean, David Lee shut down Love Sunday night, because the team admitted they were extremely focused on stopping him. And David Lee is not a great defender. He’s not even average. It didn’t look too tough for them to contain Kevin, and he had an atrocious game as well. Maybe some of it was that he wasn’t getting any calls from the officials? Even when we were getting the ball in the paint, he was completely flustered and couldn’t make anything happen.  The point is, he couldn’t create his shot when he needed to, and the TWolves also subsequently got blown out. He’s also undersized for a starting big man, so if he’s not getting offensive rebounds close to the hoop, how else does he score? I suppose he could shoot more threes, but I don’t think it takes a genius to tell you that having K-Love jack up tons and tons of threes every game would not be a good strategy.

Yes, Love had some great, nay epic, games during his 53 game streak, but some of that was just that teams didn’t really care. I mean, if Love gets 20 rebounds but the Wolves still lose by 15+ points, then what does it matter? Who cares if he gets 50 rebounds.

You see where I am going with this?

So basically, you have someone that gets a lot of rebounds (also because we don’t have any other good rebounders on our team), and can also score points decently enough, and shoot threes. His rebounding is definitely good, but not all-world (in my opinion), because he gets a lot of garbage rebounds, and it’s easy for taller players to get rebounds over him due to his lack of height and athleticism. I would say, and I think most people would agree, that Love is a better offensive rebounder than defensive rebounder. (That’s good though, I am happy with this.)  Therefore, I don’t think you can say that his rebounding makes him a better defender. Also, if you watch him, he goes to get into rebounding position rather than contest his own man’s shot, almost always as soon as his guy even starts to shoot. So yes he gets more rebounds when all is said and done, but he doesn’t make it harder for the other team to score.  He’s still a good rebounder though overall.  And he’s still leading the NBA.  I’m not saying he isn’t.

He scores points, but can’t create offense. That’s not a problem if he’s the third option on a team like OKC or Boston or a good team like that. But if he is going to be a max player and the centerpiece of our team, then that is a huuuuge issue. Big red flag there.

His three point shooting is good. It’s actually very good for a big man. So that certainly helps the cause here, for those in favor of Love getting paid bank.

Now, look at someone like Kris Humphries this year. He gets garbage points and tons of rebounds. Same with Reggie Evans. There are lots of guys that can get rebounds and garbage points (aka by not creating their own shots and having a low usage rate.) It’s especially easy to rack up rebounds and points if you are playing 35+ minutes per game on a bad team. Points and rebounds are the easiest stats to compile if you play enough minutes. How many steals, assists, and blocks does K-Lav get? Yeah, my point exactly.

Heck, look at the numbers that Tyler Hansbrough (of all people!!!) is putting up lately, now that he’s playing 35+ minutes per game. He doesn’t shoot threes, but he’s averaging 25 points per game, and 7 rebounds per game his past 5 games. Is K-Lav that much better that he deserves max money? We aren’t winning many games, and the Pacers just beat the Knicks two games in a row. The Pacers are also in playoff contention, albeit in the inferior middle/bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Now, of course Love is better than Humphries, Hansbrough, and Reggie Evans. But my point is, you would never ever ever ever give those three guys a max deal, or ANYTHING near that.

What distinguishes K-Love from them? Well, he is a better rebounder. Probably better offensively overall. He’s a worse defender than all three. Of course he also shoots threes infinitely better than they all do. The thing is, I believe that his value has become inflated by the national media due to his non-record record that is the arbitrary “near-legendary” double-double streak. Let’s be serious, it’s about as random as a record can get, and really has about zero correlation to actually winning basketball games.

So is that skill set worth a max deal, compared to guys like Humphries/Hansbrough/Evans who will make around the minimum? Or perhaps more at some point because a team will stupidly overpay them, but no would ever argue that players like them or (insert good rebounder that isn’t a star or versatile) is ever worth a huge contract. It still happens though, but usually only to (bigger) centers, because we know that 7 footers have been overpaid since the beginning of forever. Also, tall guys that play good defense get overpaid too, but as everyone knows, Love is not a very good defender.

Love is currently 5th in the NBA in Win-Shares, and 4th overall on Hollinger’s PER list, advanced metrics commonly referred to as a reason for his greatness. However, there are easily at least 2 dozen players in the NBA that I would trade K-Love for straight up, if you aren’t factoring in age and contract status into the equation. Simply, who would you rather have to win RIGHT NOW.  His play is a statistical anomaly.

In my opinion, his stock is vastly overrated right now. His value couldn’t be higher, mostly because of that DD streak. And a large part of that is he’s on a terrible team and can rack up stats, because we lose so many games and other teams don’t really care all that much about stopping him… because they know they don’t need to stop him to still beat us.

Now, I think K-Love is worth a lot more money depending on how good a team is. Like, OKC or Boston, or the Spurs or whatever contender should give him as much money as they possibly can. Because he’d be an amazing 3rd option. I’d be willing to give him more if I had ANY confidence at all in Kahn/Rhombus building around him and bringing in some legit stars to compliment his game. But I have no faith in that happening. And that gets back to the problem of giving him a ton of money on a crappy team like ours. And with the new CBA and (probably) a lower salary cap, or god forbid a hard cap, we could have huge issues paying Love a ton of money without other star support, players that can actually win games on their own. Winning is the most important thing here, and that’s what I’m most concerned with in this entire rambling post.

What would this team look like without Kevin? Probably even vastly more terrible than we already are. And of course, that would be depressing. But I guess you have to balance that against having him a huge contract that could potentially hinder us for years to come. Perhaps a sign and trade for a great haul of assets/players (if that’s even possible) is the best way to approach his impending free agency?  And I don’t think he really wants to stay here anyways, but that’s another story for another day. I really don’t know the right answer here.

So that’s why I don’t think he’s worth a max deal from the TWolves. Yes, clearly I want him on our team rather than NOT having him. And yes I’d still give him a lot of money. I just don’t think he’s worth a max deal, especially if the new CBA restricts salaries and the salary cap like it sounds as it will.

Feel free to flame away about this, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few days, and in no way am I saying Kevin Love ”sucks” or is “worthless” or I “don’t want him on the team” or anything like that at all. Please don’t take this post the wrong way.

Previously I had said that we should give him a max deal, because if we don’t then some other team will. Well… I am now changing my opinion on that matter, as I have just stated why I think such.

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