Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday Debate: Is Kevin Love a "Max" Player?

Editor's Note: Tuesday morning saw media reports that Timberwolves star forward Kevin Love, a favorite here at The Diss was on the verge of receiving a four year, $60 million dollar extension in order to keep his talents in or around (the) South Beach (of Lake Calhoun).  Looks pretty standard for a franchise player, right?  But, instead, I made the mistake of wondering...

Jacob Greenberg: Guys, should Glen Taylor max out Kevin Love?  By every metric he should be a max player.  He is a bona fide superstar who provides both tangibles and intangibles that few others can.  However, I see max (or close to max contracts) down the road for Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams.  Glen Taylor, one of the stingiest owners in the league, and one of the major hawks during the lockout, certainly doesn't have the funds to max out three players.  It seems that you could max out Love, and risk having Rubio walk later, or attempt to trade Love now, and put better, cheaper system pieces around Rubio.  Am I wrong?

Kevin Draper:  Yes, you're wrong.  You let K-Love walk, and you're guaranteeing a mediocre team, and that in itself will prompt Rubio and D-Will to walk down the road.  Plus, we don't have nearly enough evidence to suggest that D-Will (or Rubio, for that matter, though he resembles more of a finished product) will be worth anything near a max contract four years from now.

Long Bui:  Kevin's right.  You definitely have to max out Love.  How else will they be competitive?  Minnesota is not a premier destination for free agents, so they're already doing extra to get the guys they have already to stick around, or to get any free agents to sign new contracts with them.  They're not the only franchise that operates this way with their stars.  It's the only way I can explain max deals to Joe Johnson and Rudy Gay.  Love is better than both those guys.  Plus, he's white, and that matters.  It's a huge part of why he's so marketable.  Plus, Jacob, a max contract to D-Will??  Really, have you even seen D-Will play?

Kevin Draper: Love is a top ten NBA player, period.  You don't let top ten players walk.

Jacob Greenberg: I mean, Melo is a top ten NBA player, and the Knicks are below .500 since they gutted their team to acquire him.  Denver, meanwhile, looks way better as a team since trading their star. Think about the returns a trade centered around Love would garner the Wolves, who at 24, is still probably two or three seasons off from his true prime as a professional basketball player.  Can't Minnesota, conceivably, be like Denver?  Trade their star as a way to secure an alternative future?  Is Love REALLY a max player that will win you The Ship?

Kevin Draper: Please.  Melo is NOT a top ten NBA player.  Melo is a top ten NBA scorer.  Just because people like to fellate him and his diverse offensive skills does not mean he is a top ten NBA player.  I would struggle to put him in the top 25 of NBA players.  That's why the Knicks suck.  They are paying more money to Carmelo, Amar'e and Tyson Chandler (all of whom are in the top 25-50, though Amar'e looks bad this year) than the heat are paying LBJ, Wade and Bosh, who are in the top one, top five, and top 25, respectively.

Alex Maki:  Agreed.  Melo is overrated, and everyone knows it at this point.  I would rather own the Nuggets than the Knicks, as New York is up shit creek without a paddle with those big albatross contracts and a distinct lack of depth.  That, and simmering antipathy towards all that is good and right in this universe, given the supposed conclusion (for the last two seasons) that Rubio would be wearing orange and blue this season.

Andrew Snyder:  Also, Denver is a bad example in this case.  Denver looks way better because they draft and trade smart.  They already had guys like Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Nene to add to their trade haul from Melo, which featured players like Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and Raymond Felton (who has departed for Portlandia).  Plus, they don't even have Wilson Chandler back yet!  Not to mention they're one of the young "lockout darlings" such as the Thunder, Sixers and Blazers, who've had early success thus far while veteran teams have struggled with the condensed schedule.

Jacob Greenberg:  Sure, good points.   Denver is crazy deep.  Coach George Karl can trot out a bench line up of Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez, Corey Brewer, Al Harrington, and Mozgov.  That's a starting lineup (for a team that'll win 25 games, but still, that's a helluva bench in the NBA).  Minnesota doesn't have that depth.  They'd still need to trade a great player to get the supporting cast to make either Rubio or Love succeed.

Andrew Snyder:  Well, okay, David Kahn has made some seriously dumb moves with the Wolves (drafting Jonny Flynn over Steph Curry, and the jury's still kinda out on Wes Johnson, who hasn't looked great in his sophomore season).  But still, you do have to give him credit for acquiring athletic, long front-court players like Anthony Randolph, Anthony Tolliver, Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams to complement Love's lack of athleticism.  Now, if he had only taken DeMarcus Cousins over Wes Johnson...

Jacob Greenberg: DeMarcus Cousins would've Sprewelled the shit out of Kurt Rambis.

Andrew Snyder:  Can I finish?  If he had taken DeMarcus Cousins over Wes Johnson and gotten a coach who could rein him in, we'd be talking about a plus-.500 team right now.

Jacob Greenberg:  Okay, okay.  I just don't know what type of team you put around Love to make him the featured player on a championship caliber team.  As a point guard, Rubio has more control of how to utilize the skills of the other four players on the court.  I'm not sure Love is a player who necessarily can do the same for his teammates.

Andrew Snyder:  Love really needs to be paired with an athletic, defense first center who can bang on the boards with him and control the paint by throwing occasional block parties, but also step out and shoot an elbow jumper.  Unfortunately the Wolves don't have exactly that player to pair him with right now.

Jacob Greenberg:  I thought David Kahn was paying Darko Milicic 5 million dollars a year to be that guy.

Andrew Snyder:  Well, they have elements of an ideal Wolves center in the strange Eurofrankenstein center we will call Darkola Pekovillicic.  In Darko, they have a center who gets blocks and provides surprisingly decent interior defense when he's motivated to be the guy drafted just after LeBron, and just before Melo.  Nikola Pekovic gives you a big body and boards, but he's not too coordinated.  Anthony Tolliver's got a jump shot, is a three point threat, and is a serviceable 4-5 defender against similarly statured players.

Jacob Greenberg: Yeah, fair.  Good points.

Andrew Snyder:  Damn straight they're good points.  Ultimately, Love puts up amazing numbers on O, but is still a work in progress on D, and dominates the boards, which gives his teammates amazing opportunities for second chance offense, while at the same time, limiting the opposing team's access to the same opportunities.  He's definitely worth a max contract, and only quasi-contextual examples like the Knicks and Nuggets don't really prove or disprove anything about Love's value.  Who would the Wolves get back for trading a maxed out Love?  Anyone wanna play Picasso on the NBA trade machine?

Jacob Greenberg: I mean, you don't think Sam Presti would listen to an offer that would require him to sacrifice Serge Ibaka and James Harden if Love was end result of the swap?  Or, Gar Heard wouldn't consider giving up Joakim Noah and Luol Deng for K-Love, seeing as how Omer Asik is looking more and more like an ideal center in a Thiboudeau offensive system?  But yes, I see your point.  Anyways, Alex, as our resident Timberwolvesologist, do you have any last thoughts?

Alex Maki:  You need to offer Kevin Love a max contract, really for a whole slew of reasons.  It's hard to get stars to come here to Minnesota (in the NBA, not necessarily for our other sports teams, though.  Why is that?)  Additionally, you have to demonstrate to the important members of our current team (read as, Ricky Rubio) that you mean business and want to put out a quality product.  I believe Rubio will walk without an incredibly solid and reliable team around him.  Not to mention that the fans would be livid if you didn't do everything humanly possible to offer him one.  Also, D-Will may turn out to be a stud, but he has already shown that he has some struggles ahead.  Not sure you pick him to build around, as opposed to Kevin Love.  Keep Rubio and Kevin Love around, and just put a few more MEDIOCRE pieces around them (yes, I am implying a dearth of even mediocre players on the current roster), and you have a good product for a long time.  Will they be a dynasty?  Unlikely.  But, still, arguably better than anything we've had here, at least up to this point.

Jacob Greenberg:  Well, shows what I know.

Alex Maki: Yeah, never open your dumb mouth again.

Long Bui: And Melo is top ten in my fantasy heart.

Jacob Greenberg:  Mine too, Long.  Mine too.


  1. 1. The jury is not out on Wesley Johnson; they have unanimously reached the verdict that he sucks and will never be a meaningful NBA player. Corey Brewer is his ceiling.

    2. There is no question you max Love. Minnesota has no hope of luring anyone better and I would maybe give Derrick Williams a 10-15% chance of becoming as good as Kevin Love is now. On those kind of odds, you prioritize Love over Williams' potential.

    3. You don't win a championship with a team featuring Love, but you also don't win a championship if you are the Minnesota Timberwolves. The NBA is not baseball. A team cannot get lucky and win. With the exception of the Detroit Pistons, every championship team in the past 20 years is a big market team or had their best player get injured and thus tanked for a year and lucked into a top 3 power forward of all time. The Timberwolves will never, ever, win an NBA championship barring three consecutive lottery miracles. The goal is to be entertaining and relevant. Love is good enough to be featured on an entertaining and relevant team.

  2. 1. I'd say that's accurate, and perhaps even a stretch. Brewer's a better athlete and shooter at this point. Makes you wonder why they traded him in the first place.

    2. Okay, okay.

    3. So you're counting Dallas as "big market?"

  3. 1. Because they drafted Wesley Johnson! He's got a great smile! It's not fair to expect the number 4 pick in the NBA draft and a shooting forward to be able to dribble just because he's older than everyone else in the draft. Besides, who wants a 3 that can put the ball on the floor?

    3. Totally. Biggest in the country by population after NYC, LA, and Chicago. You can throw Boston in just because pretty much the entire country north and east of Massachusetts identifies with Boston sports. But it's clearly top 5. I did forget about Houston though, but they won with a top 5 center in NBA history and in an incredibly watered down league at the time.

    So large market = Chicago, LA, Boston, Dallas, Miami
    Smaller market w/historically good player = S.A. and Houston
    Smaller market that did it with good defense and balance (somehow) = Detroit

    Unless the Wolves get to draft Olajuwon, Duncan, or Durant in the next five years, they shouldn't be thinking about championships.

    I can't see any team outside of OKC pulling off the small market championship in the next decade (Besides OKC I think it is all Chicago, Miami, L.A., and, maybe NYC or LAC or something if Dwight Howard forces his way onto a super-team).

  4. 3. In this lockout shortened season, I think small markets have as good of a chance to win a championship as some of their smaller counterparts. OKC has a chance to win The Ship as a small market. So does Denver and Portland. Philly is a team with a similar makeup, but aren't they a major market?