What Does Kevin Love Need from His Next Team?

D.J. FosterContributor IJuly 21, 2014

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When it comes to Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love and the speculation surrounding his expected departure, you hear the word "wants" quite a bit.

Love wants out, this team wants Love but wants to keep their young wing, Minnesota wants more, and so on and so forth.

Even the desires of other players in addition to Love seem to be generating headlines lately, as Ken Berger of CBSSports.com explains:

The Minnesota Timberwolves want Andrew Wiggins. Kevin Love wants to go to Cleveland to play with LeBron James.

If the Cavs want Kevin Love in Cleveland playing with LeBron James, they'll have to trade Andrew Wiggins.

This is where we are.

While three people involved in the trade discussions between the teams offered little certainty Thursday on the subject of the Cavs' willingness to part with the No. 1 overall pick in a deal for Love, one aspect of this ongoing saga is clear: James has the leverage and has demonstrated he is unafraid to use it.

LeBron usually gets what LeBron wants.

While the desires of all parties involved are important, Love has to separate and prioritize what he wants from what he needs. 

As great of a player as he is, Love isn't the kind of talent who can go anywhere and automatically fit in. That ability is reserved for only a small handful of superstars, like LeBron James. Basically, what Love does on the court, he does very well, but he doesn't do it all.

The biggest gap in Love's game is on the defensive end. Love is probably the best defensive rebounder and outlet passer in the league, but his strength on the glass leaves him vulnerable elsewhere.

Love isn't crazy about getting stretched too far away from the rim, so his pick-and-roll defense often consists of a halfhearted show or leaving his guard out to dry by hanging too far back in the paint. Even when Love does get out on the screen, he's not mobile enough to really deter anything.

The bigger issue, though, is rim protection. Love prefers to play for the miss rather than attempt to alter shots, and while that fits his frame much better, getting only 0.5 blocks per game (Love's career average) creates a need to pair him with another big man who can handle that. 

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 14: Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during a game against the Golden State Warriors on April 14, 2014 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or
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With that in mind, Nikola Pekovic is a nightmare frontcourt partner for Love, as he too lacks the mobility or length to really alter shots or blow up pick-and-roll offenses. It's actually pretty incredible that Love has routinely been among the league leaders in rebounds per game while playing next to another space-eating big man whose only strength defensively coincides with his own.

It's also a big reason why the Minnesota Timberwolves and Love have never reached the playoffs. Although they've been better the last few years, this has never been a defense that has been able to consistently get stops or hold leads.

Point being, when Love looks for his next team, he should find talent that accentuates his and covers up for his weaknesses. Any offense with him should be dynamic, after all.

Get him a pick-and-roll partner, which should be any quality starting point guard in the league, and space the floor even marginally, and Love will get his. He can score from the post, he can pass, he can pick-and-pop, he can spot-up, and he can go get his own with offensive rebounds. On that end, he's much closer to a complete player.

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 14: Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots a free throw against the Golden State Warriors on April 14, 2014 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
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But there are other things to consider when it comes to Love's needs as well. He's seen how difficult it can be to contend in the Western Conference during his time in Minnesota, so going East might be seen as somewhat necessary. James and the Miami Heat just spent the last four years going to the NBA Finals relatively untested, and so pairing with James in Cleveland should have great appeal. 

Here's more on Love from ESPN.com:

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love is "intrigued" by the idea of being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and would commit long term to the team, a source close to the situation told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.


"My agent is handling everything at this point. ... I'm hoping that everything works out for all parties involved," Love said.

Cleveland doesn't offer the defensive support a team like the Golden State Warriors would, and it's not even close, but if the quality of opponents you're defending against is consistently much worse, you can overlook that. 

That being said, Anderson Varejao is a much clunkier fit than Andrew Bogut would be, although both have brutal injury histories to deal with. You can imagine Love playing some 5 in either location, which would require some elite perimeter defense to help him. Both Cleveland (James) and Golden State (Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green) are capable of supplying that. 

Of course, these are just Love's needs on the floor and don't account for finances, market size or much of anything else. Those are much harder to identify, as only Love really knows for sure.

Essentially, though, just about any offense can implement a power forward who can shoot threes at a high clip and play in the paint as well. There isn't a high degree of difficulty there. 

But from what we've learned in Minnesota over the last six seasons, Love needs help defensively above all else to finally be a part of a team that has real success.