Normally when a player is able to grab 15 rebounds, score 20 points and shoot over 40% from the 3-point line he's also able to put the franchise on his back. Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love will probably be the only exception to this rule in NBA history.
Earlier in the year, I wrote an article stating that Love was a great player, but the praise that he was getting from the likes of ESPN and NBATV is vastly overestimated.
Understand where I'm coming from here. I'm a Minnesota Timberwolves fan and writer, a classic homer, one who cannot say more positive things about the Timberwolves. Love is a great player, and he has the chance to be a perennial all-star (congrats Love!) and one of the most unique power forwards to ever play the game. He is what he is, the best rebounder in the game, an elite stand still 3-point shooter, and an impressive passer.
For anyone that thinks that Love is supposed to be one of the top 10 players in the NBA, or a player that can carry a team on his own, they're immensely mistaken. It's also becoming clearer and clearer with every game that Michael Beasley is the odd man out. Nothing against Kevin, we love him to death, but he is not the answer to all of the Timberwolves' problems, and he at most would be the 3rd best player on a championship contending team.
Sure John Hollinger and the ESPN analysts love him; he has an elite PER, he's top eight in efficiency overall, he's taking the rebounding title this year by far, and he's an all-star. Saying that Love would be the 3rd best player on a perennial championship team might upset some people, but make no mistake, he would be one of the best "3rd" mans to ever play the game.
At the end of the day, Love is the type of player that can make a significant contribution no matter if the play is called for him or not. He rebounds relentlessly, plays the pick and pop game the way it's supposed to be played, has the best hands in the NBA and he catches and gathers the ball almost automatically. He's simply an elite level glue guy, if not the best in the game today.
But his success as well as the Timberwolves future is more dependent on Beasley.
Beasley, a lethal combo forward, is by far the most talented player on the Timberwolves team. He has been banged up with various injuries, but still has managed to change his style of play and average 20 points a game. He scored in double figures in over 30 straight games, including 7 games in which he scored 30 points or more.
Offensively, the Timberwolves struggle to score without Beasley in the same way that the Timberwolves struggle to rebound without Love. Beasley keeps the floor spread because he can knock down 3-point shots and cause a matchup problem at the small and power forward positions. It has become very evident that teams have been focusing on Love more and more with Beasley out. They can now put two defenders in his zone, something they couldn't do when Beasley was healthy and tearing down the league.
But saying that they're struggling to score is an understatement. In the Timberwolves' last few games they've shot under 40% from the field, and without a shot creator running the Timberwolves' style of offense, there have been times where the Wolves have gone eight minutes without scoring, and that's absolutely unacceptable. So yes, while Love is immensely talented and skilled, he does not possess the talent to carry a team. If Beasley doesn't have that ability right now, he will eventually.
The Wolves aren't going to get stops, not now anyway. In most cases, the Wolves need to outscore their opponents, something that was much easier when Beasley was healthy.
With tonight's loss to the Clippers, Beasley can't get back sooner.
Thanks for reading!