Hey, it’s finally official! Kevin Love will be traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers later this month. Even though Minnesota is losing a good player, it will open up possibilities for younger to players to have the chance to blossom. Everyone in the league knows that Love is not a good defensive player. Yes, he is a really good rebounder, but when it comes to challenging shots and other ways to make it difficult for opposing players to score, Love is one of the worst at his position.
Anthony Bennett is the most likely candidate to take Love’s place at Power Forward, but one guy I have my eye on is Gorgui Dieng, a second-year player from Louisville. In his limited playing time last season, Dieng managed to finish ranked 30th in the league in Defensive Block Percentage (4.6%). He ranked higher than Love in Total Rebounding Percentage, finishing 14th in the league (20.0%). Dieng isn’t very skilled on the offensive side of the ball, but I feel his defense is overlooked when it comes to Advanced Statistics. FYI, I’m a huge fan of Advanced Statistics, but not all of them. He gives Minnesota a rim-protector, a guy who can challenge and change an opposing player’s shot. We could get into all the Advanced Statistics about how he totally affects a team when he is in the lineup, but let’s save that for the really smart people.
I’ve watched enough basketball to know that Dieng can be a good player in the NBA. Omer Asik is not a good offensive player, but he’s a very good defensive player and will play a vital role on the New Orléans Pelicans this season. He isn’t athletic. He doesn’t jump out of the gym. The two things he does well is he is in the right position almost every single time and makes it difficult on opposing rim-attackers to finish.
There is no question that Dieng can be that guy.
Minnesota also has Ronny Turiaf. Turiaf was hurt for a good chunk of last season, but when he did play, his minutes meant something. He is a tough, gritty player and has been that way since he entered the league. He should see an increased role on the team this season, probably backing up Bennett quite a bit, because I don’t think Bennett is ready to play 35 minutes per-game, even though he looked like he was in really good shape during the Las Vegas Summer League.
And then there is Nikola Pekovic. As limited as he is defensively, his massive body makes it difficult for opposing players to grab offensive and defensive rebounds. If you have never seen him up close, you wouldn’t understand how massive he is. His defense needs to take a step forward this season. Even the smallest improvement is still improvement.
I’m not saying Minnesota will be an elite defensive team, but it’s not like they will be a bunch of Macy manikins like in recent years. This team has athletes, and this Love deal was the best thing for them.
Love became a very good player while he was in Minnesota. He had a lot of memorable, individual performances. He transformed his body and game over the last six seasons. However, that doesn’t mean he was as good for Minnesota as Minnesota was for him.
When he hinted at the possibility of opting-out of his contract a couple of summers ago, the fans in Minnesota knew his time was limited. On top of that, all the events that have taken place this summer have rubbed the fans in Minnesota the wrong way. He didn’t provide Minnesota with any memories, like Kevin Garnett did, yet he acted like he was more important than everyone. Minnesota loves their star athletes until a certain point. I think Love reached that point when he decided arguing with officials was important than getting back on defense two years ago during the NBA-shortened season. Another incident involved Love and now former teammate J.J. Barea during a game two years ago while Minnesota was getting blown-out by the Sacramento Kings. (click here for video, thanks to Juan Luis Maldonado Gordillo for posting the video).
I’m not here to bash Love, but his antics got old after a while.
Both teams won in this trade.
On one hand, he will play side-by-side with LeBron James. Cleveland will make the playoffs and probably be pretty good for three or four years.
On the other hand, Minnesota is trying to build for prolonged success.