Keys to the Wolf Den: Can Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, and Darko Milicic Work?
The trio of the future?
Maybe not, maybe so.
Development and patience are virtues, and although the Wolves have only won 15 games this season, there have been a few bright spots for the Wolves going forward.
And although for most games it's been Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, Darko Milicic has stepped his play up as well.
It's clear to see that Al Jefferson is just now starting to get his rhythm and groove back that made him a top scorer and rebounder in the NBA. Darko has also started to get acclimated to the Wolves' triangle offense while getting in shape and learning on the fly.
Darko is 7'-plus, while Kevin Love and Al Jefferson are both 6'10''.
Many NBA analysts stated that Kevin Love and Al Jefferson needed a legit seven-footer with shot blocking abilities to fit in with "the Twin Cities", and Darko has provided insight as to how that would work.
However, in this recent game against the Sacramento Kings, in which the Wolves won, I've made some simple yet critical observations about the trio of Darko, Jefferson, and Love.
- Defensive awareness has always been Al Jefferson's pet peeve on the court, yet it seems that when he's playing with Darko, he doesn't have to protect the paint as much as usual, and can focus on making simpler defensive plays. That is significant progress, seeing that he blocked six shots last night.
- When he's healthy, Al Jefferson is one of the quickest big men in the league with his post game. He has also finally learned a little bit about passing out of the double team.
- Al Jefferson has really regressed from last season. He really lacks his same explosiveness that he once had, and due to his weight loss, he cannot overpower anyone anymore. It will be interesting to see how Al works in the offseason.
- Kevin Love has the defensive awareness, at least slightly more than Jefferson, but his lack of height and athleticism really—and I mean really—hurts. He can contest some shots, and might block a couple every now and then, but it's clear to see why Love doesn't get playing time every so often.
- When Kevin Love doesn't play with high energy, he will subjected to simple double-doubles in 20-25 MPG; it's that simple. Until he learns to increase his energy level on both ends of the court on a more consistent basis, he will only be hurting the team more than helping. Example: 23 points and 22 rebounds in 31 MPG against the Phoenix Suns; Kevin Love literally could've out-boarded Dennis Rodman that game.
- Kevin Love has moments of brilliance using some sort of footwork and speed to beat his opponents to the basket sometimes, but he really really needs to finish better at the rim. He also looks unbalanced when going up for his close shots, which is why his shots get blocked so much.
- For anyone that has taken time to watch games, Darko actually can ball. He has an uncanny court vision that his teammates haven't gotten used to yet, but you can tell that the Wolves love playing with him. It's clear to me why the Wolves would like to re-sign him in the offseason.
- He seriously lacks some conditioning right now, I mean in a bad way. It has gotten better over the span of a few games, but remember it took about two months of games for Al Jefferson to get into game shape. When Darko gets into better condition, you can tell he's going to be a pretty solid center, the way he already blocks shots, contests shots, and runs the court.
- He gives the Wolves someone that actually cares about the defensive end. Not only does block and contest shots, but when he finished with 11 points and nine rebounds in the first half, Darko's interview questions were all answered with something that has to do with defense. It's clear he doesn't like to lose, and has figured out that defense wins ball games. (Are you listening, Ryan Hollins?)
Can this trio work?
Yes, it can.
In fact, if it pans out with the possible potential that's in front of them, they can be one of the better big-man trios in the league.
One thing I do worry about is having a fourth big man, and not a Ryan Hollins-type. A player that has size close to seven feet that has some high energy all the time. (Like DeJuan Blair, but not in terms of height).
They showed that last night—the trio all had double-doubles, and Darko and Jefferson combined for ten blocks. That, my friends, is progress.
Thanks for reading!
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