Mar 10, 2008

Kevin Love as an NBA prospect

If the NBA draft were held tomorrow, Kevin Love would probably be picked somewhere between 15th and 20th. He might even slip further in favor of more athletic, higher "upside" players (see DeVon Hardin of Cal). Teams like Atlanta, New York, & New Jersey just couldn't pass up the chance at "once-in-a-lifetime" talents like Hasheem Thabeet, Darrell Arthur, or Anthony Randolph. Even Jay Bilas (Love's biggest fan) would praise these perenially poor evaluators of talent for their ingenious selections.

The Spurs would steal him with a pick in the mid-twenties, and draft analysts would call it a perfect fit for the predictable, efficient, if not boring Champs. After all, those are the adjectives best fit for describing Love's game, no? Love's game is "pedestrian," "heady." He's "overrated," "physically limited." He plays "slow" and "below the rim."

What's so wrong with predictable and efficient? Why are we so enamored with the unknown? Year after year, teams drool over athletic specimens like Hakim Warrick, Tyrus Thomas, and Stromile Swift. It turns into a vicious cycle for the league's bottom-feeders: trade a proven veteran to land a "specimen," spend 2-3 years trying to break these players of their bad habits, and then ship them off for less than they paid in the first place. All they have to show for it is a depleted fan base and poor team chemistry.

Kevin Love will be the next... Bill Laimbeer? Brad Miller? These seem to be the most common comparisons. Of course they are -- he's a big man who can throw the bounce pass and hit the nineteen-footer. More than anything else, he's white. We are in love with comparing white guys to white guys. If Love could jump into a time machine, he would fit in perfectly with the Celtics teams of the early 80's. He'd look great in knee socks and short shorts, coming off the bench to replace McHale as the team's designated human elbow.

To me, the Laimbeer/Miller comparisons are laughable. He has the passing ability and shooting touch of those guys, but also crashes the boards with the reckless abandon. He has excellent footwork in the low post, and his ability to create inside looks or draw fouls against taller defenders shows the maturity of his game. In short, his brand of basketball is much more diverse than Miller's or Laimbeer's.

I foresee an NBA career that includes 4-5 all star appearances and numerous deep playoff runs. Those accomplishments would be pretty impressive for a late first-round pick.

Follow this link to read a hilarious & well-written blog about Love and his well-documented outlet passes:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kevin's performance tonight - particularly down the stretch of the game against A & M - bears out your points regarding his game. I don't ever remember Laimbeer or Miller being "go to" guys. This kid was the #1 option in crunch time as a freshman, and he stepped up to carry that mantle well, just as he has all season for UCLA.

As you noted, if he were able to go back in time, he would have fit perfectly with Bird, McHale and Parish on the front line of the Celtics of the early '80's. What's interesting, is the best team that Bird ever played on in Boston was the '85 team that included none other than Wise William Walton himself. What is equally interesting is that for as goofy of an analyst as Luke's dad is, he was possibly the most skilled all-around center that I ever watched when he was healthy. In fact, the "Mountain Man" was rated in the top 5 - behind only Kareem, Oscar and Russell - on the all-time most impactful college basketball player's list. He was healthy for about 3 seasons worth of play in his career, leading Portland to it's only NBA title in his first healthy season, and providing a major lift to the '85 Celtics when they won it. I feel like Love plays the game more like Walton did than most any other big white guy that the league has seen in my lifetime.

I'm not sure that I like the way that fans distinguish a player as a "white guy" or a "black guy", but after hearing some commentary regarding Tyler Hansbrough and Dicky V.'s man-crush on him, it got me thinking. The question was posed: "Who is the best American-born white player in the NBA right now?" I bristled at that initially, and then realized that if I just wanted to indulge this question for the heck of it, I found it hard to answer that! It occurs to me that Kevin Love may be the guy that will come to minds most readily in a few years. His feel for the game and skill-set just seem more likely to allow him to have that impact than even Hansbrough, and I think that kid is a real good player!

Incidentally, I don't know about other conferences in the country, but I believe that there are two other American-born anglo kids from the Pac 10 who look like they might have a reasonable opportunity to be really good NBA players: Chase Budinger of 'zona and Ryan Anderson of Cal. Budinger may be a little overrated, but the pro scouts were very high on him going into this season. His struggles seemed to closely parallel the Cats' problems as a team this year. As for Anderson, that kid has range and is fluid and skilled for a 6'11" guy.