Sizing Up Love: Dunks, Data Or Victories?


VIDEO: Kevin Love executes perfect pass and dunk after practice in Phoenix

When taking the measure of an NBA superstar, what’s your preferred yardstick: Highlight videos or cold, hard analytics? Something visceral and dazzlingly in the moment, or something statistical, built on percentages and decimal points?

Minnesota’s Kevin Love had you covered both ways Thursday.

The fun stuff occurred after the Timberwolves’ practice in the Phoenix Suns’ gym at U.S. Airways Center, as the Wolves – after beating the Suns Tuesday, 110-101 – stuck around for a few days before heading to Sacramento for their game Saturday against the Kings. In an homage to LeBron James‘ impromptu dunk show after Miami’s practice on the same court earlier this month, a shirtless Love fired a ball off the side wall, caught it on the bounce and threw down a reverse, two-handed slam.

All of it, right down to the barechestedness, was just like LeBron. Only this time it was captured by teammate Ronny Turiaf on rookie Gorgui Dieng‘s cell phone.

Now it’s time for the math: The gap in the Wolves’ schedule allowed for some numbers-crunching that showed how much impact Love and his All-Star season has had on his Minnesota teammates.

If the 6-foot-10 power forward’s 26.6 points, 13.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game aren’t enough, or his 38.4 percent 3-point percentage, a 28.3 PER rating, those 48 double-doubles (one triple-double) and 20 games scoring 30 points or more, consider how much better the other Wolves players are when Love is on the court with them than when he’s not.

Point guard Ricky Rubio, for instance, has an offensive rating of 109.8 and a defensive rating of 102.2 in the 1,603 minutes he has played alongside Love this season, a net rating of plus-7.6. In the 188 minutes Rubio has been out there without Love, those stats drop to 97.6 and 105.9, a minus-8.3.

Shooter Kevin Martin has had the same pattern: 107.1/102.8/plus-4.3 with Love, 100.7/108.2/minus-7.5 without him.

So has center Nikola Pekovic, at 109.7/102.8/plus-6.9 vs. 95.0/103.2/minus-8.1.

And Corey Brewer, 110.1/103.0/plus-7.0 vs. 95.2/101.7/minus-6.6.

And J.J. Barea, 105.3/100.1/plus-5.1 vs. 91.3/104.5/minus-13.1.

Love’s own on/off numbers for the Wolves: 113.8/104.8/plus-9.0 in 1,956 minutes played vs. 99.5/107.9/minus-8.4 in 784 on the side.

Love’s impact shows up in other ways. Martin, for example, has hit 43.9 percent of his field goal attempts with the big guy around to draw defenders but just 33.7 percent when he’s not. Rubio, Pekovic, Brewer, Barea and Chase Budinger also have shot better with Love on the court.

Only Turiaf of all the Wolves players, curiously, has been more efficient and/or productive with Love out of the game. Maybe that has something to do with some overlap in where they’re at their best.

So which is it that impresses you more: The grainy dunk-show video in all its individual glory, or the hardcore data tied to teammates?

Or are you old school, focusing on Minnesota’s 28-29 record and dreary spot (10th) in the Western Conference standings and withholding your ooh‘s and aah‘s until Love makes his impact felt with a playoff berth? Fair enough.

11 Comments

  1. okc2014 says:

    Gotta love Love!

  2. Tyler jacobson says:

    You guys are so blind, hes 6″10 so the dunks not impressive? Lebron is 6″8 yeah, huge difference right? Nate robinson is. 5’8 and could do better than both of these, Klove is somply mocking lebron for trying to act cool, and honestly who in the nba cant throw a ball off the wall and do a reverse? Go watch some more sportscenter jesus

  3. Marco29 says:

    Love is the defintion of a Superstar: putting up consistenlty great number and making his teamates better. If if wasen’t for KD and LBJ, he would make a decent MVP. His only flaws: defense and clutch time plays.
    Also the major point againt his candidacy is the Wolw’s record. For the past 2 years, the Wolwes did not live up to the expectations due to injuries and the fact they play in the packed West (don’t forget they would be in 6th place in the East and would probably have more wins if they played more often against The Bucks, The Sixers of the Magic).
    He doesn’t have the same crew around him as the other candidates especilally KD and LBJ but also LA and Paul or Griffin.

    Just like Melo in NY, Love is wasting his prime in Minnesota and should defintely test the market when he gets a chance to and look for a spot with a contender or a wanabee.

  4. Cain says:

    The only comparison of that dunk to LBJ’s is the topless factor and it was recorded on a phone, C’mon that was crusty compared to LBJ and he’s 6ft 10!
    I love Kevin Love, brilliant player who honestly needs to go to another team, they will never be able to bring the right sort of talent around him to win or at least push him deep into the playoff’s.

    Sorry Wolves he will be going.

    • timpson says:

      Those players r bought just like Jordan said I wouldn’t team up with no one I wanna beat the best.

  5. dustydreamnz says:

    Isn’t that Spam posted by Jay? Would be interesting to see Love on a good team.

  6. freddy says:

    Kevin Love is a true super star….he will and consistantly leads his team to the lottery.

  7. Chris says:

    What’s the point of this article?

  8. Bill says:

    That wasn’t a very impressive throw down for a 6’10” NBA player.