Friday, August 08, 2014

Bill Simmons on Kevin Love (With My Reply)

Simmons says Love is Underrated.  As a 26 year Timberwolves season ticket holder, I am probably one of the very few people in the world who have watched Kevin Love play a lot every season he has been healthy as a pro. Kevin Love has played 364 NBA games.  I have seen probably 130 in person and 150 or more on TV.  I can tell you virtually anything you need to know about how Kevin Love has played and can play in the NBA.  My conclusion is that he is a Second Team All-NBA player and people have serious questions about his greatness.  He is....."Properly Rated."

The first thing you need to know is that Kevin Love is an extremely selfish player.  I would say that he is an extremely selfish and self-centered person as well, but that analysis isn't based upon spending 600 hours around him.  I have probably seen him play for 600 hours, so I have a fair sample to say he is a selfish player.

Shane Battier is a great winner.  His teams almost always won.  He is a huge team guy, great defender, willing defender (will try to guard anyone), great in the locker room and doesn't care if he stands in the corner for 29 straight possessions and never sees the ball, he will stand there if he is asked to do so and when LeBron throws him the ball and he is open, he is ready to shoot it.

Kevin Love is none of those things.  He is not a big team guy, is a terrible and unwilling defender, poor in the locker room, and if he is not seeing the ball, there will be hell to pay.  If his team is winning by 30 and he has 10 points and 10 rebounds, he wants back in the game because he isn't getting his averages.

How poor is Love as a defender?  Cannot defend out on the floor, cannot defend down low, poor pick and roll defender, never gets a steal, never gets a block, extremely terrible help defender (virtually invisible) and he isn't really even willing to take a few fouls to establish an interior presence.  Love's 1.6 steals+blocks per 100 possessions makes him about as active in those areas as Wally Szczerbiak was. 

So those are the weaknesses.  Love defensively reminds me of a quote I once heard about Mark Aguirre, "I don't think he would be a good defender if he tried, but he will never try, so we will never know."  Love is not particularly quick, doesn't jump real well, and is built kinda stocky (versus long and lean).  He is also undersized, standing only a little over 6'7" in bare feet. 

Defensively, Love really needs to play with a big shot blocking center.  He never has, unless you count Darko (which you maybe could, if you could stand to watch Darko play).

So, as a team player, Love -- 30 out of 100
As a defender - Love - 20 out of 100.

He is terrible at these aspects of the game. 

Ball handling - good in the post, can shot fake and take one dribble, not awful - 62 out of 100

Then you hit his sweet spots:

Passing - since he was told numerous times that great players need better assist stats, Love has become a willing passer and his outlet passing is spectacular.  90

Shooting - one of the most skilled big men I have ever seen play the game.  Has every type of shot - 97.

Rebounding - Rodman or Moses Malone-esque -- 100

Flopping/Getting to the Line -- 98 (maybe Harden is better, or maybe not)

So what you have in Love is one of the starkest contrast of any player ever to play the game.  He has rebounding, passing and shooting skills combined that are roughly the equivalent of Larry Bird (worse passer, better rebounder).  Yet defensively and as a teammate he is right there in Rashad McCants/J.R. Rider territory. 

On the one hand he has a skill set equal to a top 10 all-time player.  And on the other hand, he is so poor at certain aspects of the game that he could be out of the league if he had to rely upon those skill sets.

The problem with Kevin Love leading a team to the playoffs (which he has not done) is that he lacks a physical ability that is simply overwhelming.  He isn't huge (Kareem, Shaq, Duncan, the Malones), he isn't ridiculously fast (Jordan, LeBron, Wade), he isn't explosive (Elgin Baylor, Nique, Drexler).  He doesn't have a freakish ballhandling ability for a bigger man (Oscar, Magic, LeBron).  He isn't freakishly long and lean for a shooting player (Durant, Dirk).  He isn't able to guard all five positions (Garnett).

If you don't have superstar athletic ability of some sort, it is hard to be an all-time great.  You can find exceptions, most of them 20 plus years ago and white - Bird, Rick Barry, Stockton.  But Bird and Stockton played hard on both ends of the floor and were consummate team players.  Rick Barry's first 4 years that they kept the steals stat he averaged almost 3 steals + blocks!!!  His steals plus blocks figures were DOUBLE those being put up by Kevin Love.  And Barry was not regarded as a particularly great defender.  But he contributed something positive on that end.

 I believe that Kevin Love is recognized by most people as a top 10 NBA player who has some enormous holes in his game which keep him from being a top 3 player.  That is, in fact, what he is.  So, on the Simmons scale, he is "Properly Rated."


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