Mackey: Why Glen Taylor looks foolish after his jabs at Kevin Love
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Continuing with the NBA's recent trend of mid-market owners publicly criticizing superstars who depart for greener pastures, Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor took a few parting shots at Kevin Love earlier this week.
Among those jabs, Taylor said, "I think he's around a couple guys who are awful good. Now I'm not saying that Kevin's not good, but I think where maybe he got away with some stuff, not playing defense on our team, I'm not sure how that's going to work in Cleveland. So I would guess they're going to ask him to play more defense. And he's foul-prone."
Love responded on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" (heard on 1500 ESPN) by saying, "For Glen to say that, I just think that he should be focusing on the players that he just received. I mean, he has two of the No. 1 picks in the last two drafts: Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. He has another guy who can really play in Thaddeus Young. ... I think he got a lot for me. So I'd be focusing even more on that. More than anything, I'm just excited to start my time in Cleveland, get to work with my new teammates, and start with this new family here."
Nothing too malicious from either side, but some frigid vibes for sure. There's obviously some tension between the two - and seemingly more from Taylor's side, which seems unwarranted considering Taylor admitted this week that, in retrospect, he should have given Love the max deal after all.
Taylor and then-GM David Kahn were the ones who deemed Love not worthy of a five-year max contract two years ago. This contractual snubbing paved the way for what we all saw coming - Love holding a grudge against the organization and eventually bolting for a new team. From a human perspective alone, Love's departure isn't unreasonable at all. Sure, he could have handled it in a way that left him on better terms with Wolves fans, but maybe he just doesn't care. And sure, Love has some flaws as a player and as a leader, but he is still one of the top 10 players in the NBA.
And let me ask this: Who has more flaws, Love as a player or Taylor as an owner? Most people would say Taylor without hesitation. That's why his parting shots were so unwarranted.
Just to make sure we're ironing out all the facts, Ryan Feldman from the ESPN Stats & Information department sent over an email with some fascinating research. The premise of the research was to answer the question, "Was Glen Taylor right about Kevin Love's defense?"
Once again, Taylor said Love was foul prone and he got away with not playing defense in Minnesota.
Well, on one hand...
According to NBA.com player tracking data, Love was the worst rim protector in the NBA last season. He allowed a 57.4 field goal percentage at the rim, worst in the league among players to defend at least 6 shots per game.
Worst Opp FG pct at the Rim - Last Season
Kevin Love -- 57.4
Nikola Vucevic -- 56.4
Nikola Pekovic -- 55.2
Ersan Ilyasova -- 55.1
Pau Gasol -- 54.6
But on the other hand....
Love may have struggled protecting the rim, but he was actually a good 1-on-1 defender. On post-up plays, Love allowed the 3rd-fewest points per play, minimum 200 post-up plays.
Fewest Pts per Post-Up Play Allowed - Min. 200 Plays Last Season
Greg Monroe -- 0.68
Markieff Morris -- 0.70
Kevin Love -- 0.72
Al Jefferson -- 0.73
Jonas Valanciunas -- 0.74
Feldman's research also points this out regarding Love's defense:
Love actually led the Timberwolves in defensive win shares last season with 3.7. Defensive win shares are an estimate of the number of wins a player contributes to his team due to his defense.
Since Love entered the NBA in 2008-09, he hasn't had a single teammate ranked in the top 25 in defensive win shares. Only once has one of his teammates even ranked in the top 50 (Ricky Rubio was 29th last season, just behind Love).
With Love on the court last season, the Timberwolves allowed 104.1 points per 100 possessions. With Love off the court, they allowed 104.2 points per 100 possessions. Based on those numbers, it's hard to say that Love was the reason why the team struggled defensively.
As for being "foul prone?"
Love only sent his opponents to the free throw line on 5.4 percent of his plays as on-ball defender last season, the 2nd-lowest rate in the league, minimum 800 plays.
Lowest Foul pct as On-Ball Defender - Min. 800 Plays Last Season
Robin Lopez -- 5.1
Kevin Love -- 5.4
Jodie Meeks -- 5.5
LaMarcus Aldridge -- 5.6
Kemba Walker -- 5.9
On post-up plays, Love was the best in the league at defending without fouling last season. He sent his opponents to the free throw line on just 5.8 percent of the post-up plays he defended, the lowest rate in the league among players to defend at least 100 plays.
Lowest Foul pct on Post-Up Plays - Min. 100 Plays Last Season
Kevin Love -- 5.8
Tristan Thompson -- 6.0
Pau Gasol -- 6.6
Robin Lopez -- 6.7
Zaza Pachulia -- 7.3
So, there you have it. Even more proof that Taylor probably should have just kept his (mostly factually incorrect) opinions about Love to himself and instead enjoyed the unveiling of Superstar Reboot No. 3 in Wolves franchise history.
More importantly, Taylor should focus on how to provide the newest franchise player, Wiggins, with every resource imaginable so he doesn't end up searching for greener pastures in a few years as well.
Additional listening: Steve McPherson joins the Sports Over Beers podcast to analyze what all the new players mean for the Wolves on the court. The guys also discuss Taylor's comments, which come off as tone-deaf and dampened the mood a little on an otherwise exciting day for the Wolves.