Excluding half-man/half-puppy/all-point guard Ricky Rubio, the Minnesota Timberwolves have had only two players in franchise history who even approached greatness, much less achieved it. (Sorry, Starbury.)
One of these, the 7’0” athletic marvel Kevin Garnett, played for the T’Wolves for 12 championship-less years before setting sail for Boston, where he won a ring as part of the Boston Three Party. The other, 6’8” banger Kevin Love — hey, they’re both named Kevin! I’m named Kevin too! — currently toils away on a mediocre Minnesota team that threatens at potency, but probably won’t be playing come playoff time.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has written the checks for both these guys, and he told the Minnesota Star-Tribune that he does not believe Kevin Love is on Garnett’s level.
“‘Kevin [Garnett] did it for many years. Love is doing well now, but he has a long way to go to catch up with the long successful career that Garnett had,’ Taylor said.”
I mean, sure, obviously. Garnett’s in his 17th season, and Love’s in his fourth. The question is, how good was Garnett when he had the same amount of experience as Love?
In the fourth seasons of their careers, measuring today, both played about the same amount of games — 47 for Garnett (injuries), 48 for Love (lockout/season ongoing). As for how they stack up in the important categories:
Love’s true-shooting percentage (a measure of how he shoots on two-point field goals, three-point field goals and free throws combined) is drastically higher than Garnett’s, at 57.4% to 49.3%.
Love scores 26.6 points a game to Garnett’s 20.8.
Love’s rebounding percentage (a measure of how many available rebounds he grabs) is 27.1% to Garnett’s 22%.
Love gets 13.9 boards per game to Garnett’s 10.4.
Overall, Love is significantly more effective and diverse of a player than Garnett was, and his offensive rating — 118 to KG’s 102 — reflects that. Same with his Player Efficiency Rating: 25.7 to Garnett’s 22.4.
Initially, it looks as though Garnett has the serious edge on defense.
He blocked far more shots than Love does, at 1.8 to 0.5 per game, and forced more steals, at 1.7 to 0.9 per game.
His defensive rating isn’t terrifically better, though: 97 to Love’s 102. And Love’s defensive rating has been on a downward trend through the first four seasons of his career, giving reason to believe that it might continue to improve. Unless, of course, it follows the movement Garnett’s did, dipping in his fourth season before bouncing back up.
Measuring at the fourth seasons of their careers, Love’s a better player than KG. Put aside Garnett’s ability to alter more plays on defense due to his blocking and steals — which is slightly counterbalanced by his higher turnover numbers — and you have a player whose defensive advantages are outweighed by how much less effective of an offensive player he was.
Garnett continued to improve and play at an incredibly high level through 2006-07, and Love will need to do so as well to piece together a better career than KG’s &mdash, but he’s off to a great start. The ultimate challenge, of course, will be whether Rubio and Love can lead the T’Wolves to a championship. If they can bring one to Minnesota, I think Glen Taylor might change his mind.