The last two Timberwolves’ games sure have revealed the unquestionable value of Kevin Love to the franchise. Although it’s somewhat impressive the Wolves were able to be 1-1 without him, there’s no doubt that if Love had played (especially in Wednesday night’s loss to the Grizzlies) Minnesota could have possibly ran away with each game. Love has justified his contract extension with his exceptionable play so far, and now that he’s been gone for two games you can really see just how average and mediocre the Wolves are without him.
The two biggest problems with the team while he’s been away for the last two games are turnovers (31 total) and 3-point field goal percentage (28% and 21%). The turnovers and careless ball handling have really killed the Wolves the past two nights. They have directly contributed to the Kings and Grizzlies combining for 49 fast break points. It’s clear Rubio isn’t the same player without Love on the floor. All those tricky bounce passes and lobs that generally go to Love are being fumbled and bumbled by the likes of Beasley, Tolliver and Pekovic. I have watched these last two games and can see the dumbfounded look on Rick Adelman’s face time and time again with just how careless the Wolves have been handling the basketball. The offense looks lost, especially with Beasley on the floor, where he likes to isolate on the Wing and the ball stops moving.
The 3-point shooting has been atrocious as well. At one point they were 1/15 from beyond the arc Wednesday night against the Grizzlies, and in the second quarter they missed 18 of 21 shots. The spacing, passing and turnovers really did them in this quarter, and basically for the game. Love is an excellent 3-point shooter and the percentages couldn’t have been that bad with him in the lineup. I understand that sometimes you just have bad nights shooting, but two in a row can be directly linked to Love’s absence. Bad 3-point shooting leads to long rebounds, which lead to a lot of opportunities for fast break points.
This is the most important year of Kevin Love’s career thus far. He is being payed Superstar money, and to become a Superstar he needs to be in every game, barring injury. The league did the right thing by suspending him, sending him a message that he can’t become a Rasheed Wallace or Ron Artest. Clearly, Love isn’t as crazy as those two are, but he does have a track record of getting a little too aggressive fighting for boards, and he can get raddled easily by more physical players. The NBA is ready to market this kid as a Superstar and he has to act like one, both on and off the court, if he wants to be. I completely agree with the Wolves’ decision to pay him big money and cater to his needs, but he has to keep his emotions in check and do a little less complaining to the refs and more hustling back on defense. Every game Love misses is another game away the Wolves are from contending.