Can Kevin Love really lead a playoff team?
Kevin Love is one of the best power forwards in the league. In fact, he is one of the best players of his generation. He puts up significantly big numbers and he is a double-double machine. Ok, that’s no big news. The big question right now is can he really lead a playoff team?
First of all, it’s notable that since the Minnesota Timberwolves landed Kevin Love, back in 2008, they have yet to receive a playoff invitation. The last time the Wolves participated in the postseason was back in 2003-2004. It’s obvious that the Wolves’ issue is much deeper than Love’s presence.
It’s true that in the NBA star players are given much responsibility for the final outcome of their team’s season. This happens to almost any team sport, but in basketball it reaches an excessive level. LeBron James was accused for not being able to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a championship. Kobe Bryant has the biggest part of the responsibility for the Los Angeles Lakers’ success of failure and so it goes for Kevin Love and Minnesota.
Nonetheless, this is not absolutely true and fair.
Basketball is a team sport and this means that teams, not superstars, win games and championship. Of course, the presence and the production of a superstar can greatly alter the dynamics and the course of a franchise. However, one player can’t lead a team to success, if he doesn’t have the supporting cast needed. This fact has been proven numerous times.
This same situation can be noticed in Minnesota. Let’s face reality. The Wolves have a bad team. When Love is not on the floor, the Timberwolves struggle to find solutions on offense. It’s notable that when Love is out for the game, the Wolves score a league-worst 90.6 points per contest. On the other hand, with Love on the floor, this numbers gets dashed to 110.1 points.
Love’s contribution to the team goes above and beyond sinking threes, scoring in the paint or rebounding. When he is on the floor, he draws much defensive attention. He forces opposing defenders to chase him in the perimeter. That opens the lanes for Ricky Rubio or the other penetrators to start their drives. It also frees up Kevin Martin in the perimeter. As the defense is more stretched, Nikola Pekovic has the chance to see more open space and find a high-percentage shot inside. Kevin Love does make his teammates better and he doesn’t need to dish them an assist or setup a good screen to do so, although he does those things, too.
However, in order for him to lead his team to the playoffs, he will need a team that is able to be leaded. It only makes sense. If Love had some teammates that needed an extra spark, a leader to boost their performance, the Wolves would be in a much better place at the moment. But the truth is that Minnesota might possess the pieces that will be able to emerge alongside Love.
Kevin Love has the opportunity to opt out of his contract after the end of the 2014-2015 season. The Wolves will need to persuade him they can become competitive, a playoff-caliber team. If they fail to do so, they might see their superstar forward open the exit door and say goodbye.