Exactly one month ago, I wrote a piece titled “Wolves’ success should rely on Thunder’s rebuilding scheme” where I stated that the Wolves need to choose one player to build around instead of just acquiring a plethora of talent. David Kahn referenced that the team has a core roster of Jefferson, Love, Flynn, Brewer, Gomes and Ellington. That’s a BIG core roster. I believe that a team ought to be built more around one person as opposed to a group of players because that way you can implement a better game plan around one person and find talent to surround and support that one player. There’s only one ball to go around, right? Well the person I chose in that article was Al Jefferson and the evidence to support my claim I felt was justified at the time, but after a month of more evaluation, my opinion has swayed. So who deserves to be the Wolves’ “core” guy?
I have now turned my attention to Kevin Love. I’m not saying I disregarded him in the first place but I did feel, and still do a little bit, that Love may not be a true franchise player. He just doesn’t possess the scoring ability as other top franchise players do. I think he probably maxes out at about 20 points a game over the span of a regular season but what really caught my attention is his rebounding and overall efficiency ratings.
This chart compares and contrasts Jefferson and Love’s numbers this season through Sunday night’s game. It shows that Love’s efficiency is stable enough to carry a team on his back, despite his lack of scoring compared to other franchise players. The thing to keep in mind is that Love is the Wolves’ sixth man right now; he comes off the bench and plays less minutes than Jefferson. My point is that Love is way more efficient, if you look at PER (Player Efficiency Rating), for the time he is on the court. So, Love plays less minutes and, yet, is still more effective than Jefferson.
Jefferson does score more per game but again, that’s where Love’s lack of minutes comes in. If Love were to play the same amount of minutes as Jefferson does per game, the chart would then look like this:
As you can see, if Love were playing just four minutes more per game, equal to Jefferson, he would be grabbing about three more boards than Jefferson as well as scoring almost the same amount of points at 17.1 to Jefferson’s 17.5. Love’s PER also goes through the roof over 25 which would rank 6th in the league between Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, two clear cut franchise guys, thus proving that he is way more efficient on the floor.
We saw Darko Milicic last night post an astounding plus-35 in the plus/minus category. That basically just means that the Wolves were hot when he was on the court and scored 35 more points than they gave up with Darko on the court. Oh, and that was only in 19 minutes. Jefferson played 29 minutes last night and posted a minus-37. That shows you that the team was not as effective on either side of the court with Jefferson in the game, and he played the second most minutes on the team behind Kevin Love. Now in comparison, Love played 31 minutes and was plus-24 last night, showing he was effective on both sides of the court.
The bottom-line is that the Wolves, in the midst of rebuilding, need someone who can be both effective and efficient with their minutes on both ends of the court. By playing Love more than just 6th man minutes and showing he is one of most effective players in the league as well as one of the best teammates in the league, the Wolves can not only improve over the rest of the season but also possibly gain interest from free agents that will be available next summer who might be swayed into wanting to play alongside Love. Love has proven that he is “Mr. Efficiency,” even when coming off the bench. The Wolves will need to figure out how to build around him by implementing more scoring opportunities and maybe more of a true center next to him (Darko anyone?). More importantly, I now think that maximizing Jefferson’s value via a trade next summer just might be the right move.
With Darko being more of a true center, these next couple months will help spell out a lot for the Wolves and us fans. We will truly find out if Big Al and Love can play together in the long run and if having more of a true center coming off the bench to stabilize the front line can help improve the efficiency on both offense and defense. It really should play out in one of two scenarios: 1) We find out that Darko plays better with Love and we improve defensively, then Jefferson may be on his way out. (Assuming we can convince Darko to stay) or 2) Jefferson, and even Love, show improvement on defense and the Wolves are able to work this thing out with Big Al and Love. Which scenario will play out? We have only 25 games to accumulate our final evaluations until David Kahn makes his moves this off-season to continue to make this team into a playoff contender.