In the wake of the Kevin Love trade, the Minnesota Timberwolves do not appear to be in shambles. Instead, Minnesota is in a position to not only be an up-and-coming team in years to come, but they also have the potential to make a surprise entry into the playoffs next season. Despite all the positive remarks about the trade that the Minnesota Timberwolves have received, current owner Glen Taylor, in Tuesday’s news conference, questionably criticized Kevin Love and his ability.
In the news conference, Taylor spoke how he was worried about how Love will fit in with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He stated that it will be an adjustment for the power forward, as he will go from being a franchise player, to the third option. Furthermore, the owner did not hold anything back, saying how Love’s lack of a defensive presence and his supposed habit of fouling too much will drag Cleveland down.
There were many inaccuracies in Taylor’s public statements about Kevin Love on Tuesday. At the top of the list, is the fact that he believes Love will be the third option on Cleveland. If one takes a look back at the 2013-2014 season, all three players, Kevin Love (26.1 ppg), LeBron James (27.4 ppg) and Kyrie Irving (20.8 ppg), were the top option on their respective team, without much added help. Of these players, James and Love are not far apart in their offensive contributions. Meanwhile, Irving is by far the weaker of the three in terms of production. When all three join up this upcoming season in Cleveland, it would be shocking if Love was the third option. If anything, James and Love, like last season, may not have much disparity on the offensive end.
Secondly, Taylor’s comments that Love is foul-prone is completely baseless and nonsensical. It makes one question if the owner truly watched the games his team played, particularly when Love was in. During the 2013-2014 season, Love played the longest minutes for Minnesota, while also averaging one the least amount of fouls per game for the starters, at a mere 1.8 per contest. Additionally, there was not a single game during the season that the power forward fouled out, thus making the owner’s claims perplexing.
The only statement of Taylor’s that is true is that Love has a lack of defensive presence on the floor. While accurate, the Minnesota owner neglects the fact that outside of James and maybe Anderson Varejao, not many other players, particularly Irving, are stellar at the defensive end of the court. In essence, Love is not much worse than the majority of the Cavaliers’ roster. Another aspect Love’s former owner elected not to present is rebounding. It goes without saying that Love is one of the best, if not the best, rebounder in the league. Last season he averaged 12.5 rpg, which will only increase the Cavaliers’ play on the glass for the upcoming season.
In response to Taylor’s comments, Love did exactly what he should have — he took the high road. Instead of criticizing Minnesota’s front office for not giving him enough help, he said how the bitter owner should focus on the plethora of talent he just received in the deal.
The players that Minnesota received for Love, including the last two top picks in the draft, Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and, Philadelphia’s best player last season, Thaddeus Young, are more than enough reason to move on from the multi-year Love ransom. Instead of having one of the best power forwards in the NBA, Minnesota now has two immediate starters in Young and Wiggins. Bennett, on the other hand, has the potential to be a solid backup and, possibly, a future starter.
Moreover, Minnesota now has a team that has the depth to compete in the competitive Western Conference. As a result of the trade, the Timberwolves now have a squad that goes 10-men deep. The likely starting lineup of Ricky Rubio at point guard, Kevin Martin at shooting guard, Wiggins at small forward, Young at power forward and either Nikola Pekovic or last year’s standout Gorgui Dieng at the center spot, could give many teams trouble. Also, Minnesota has a solid second unit led by Corey Brewer, Bennett, J.J. Barea and Mo williams. Considering how coach and team president Flip Saunders put this team together, they very well could have a roster rivaling the depth of the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, and Dallas Mavericks. This is not to say that Minnesota will be vying for a championship out of the blocks, but it does mean that the cursed Minnesota Timberwolves may find themselves in the playoff picture.
Glen Taylor appears to have not gotten over his anger of Love leaving his franchise. Despite the owner having questionably criticized Kevin Love, it may serve him best to focus on what could be a rejuvenated Minnesota team. No longer does Minnesota have to deal with the inevitability of their franchise player leaving town. No longer does the team have to figure out a way to get enough assets out of Love. Instead, whether Glen Taylor believes it or not, he needs to focus on the excellent opportunity the Minnesota Timberwolves have, in the wake of the largest blockbuster trade in years.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey