Kevin Love is channeling Bill Laimbeer

As I have mentioned in the past, my four year old nephew is a HUGE Minnesota Timberwolves fan.  For Christmas he received a Kevin Love home jersey, and he was in seventh heaven.  I don’t think he took that bad boy off for days. (Side story: My six year old niece, who can read, asked me if there was really a player named “Love”.  To which I gave this idiotic answer “Oh yeah — Kevin Love.  His dad was Stan Love. I think he played power forward for the Bulls.”)  As you know, I am a Kevin Love fan as well, but for sentimental reasons.

Prior to the 2008 NBA Draft I insisted he would be a huge win producer for whomever drafted him.  Everyone and his grandmother insisted to me Love was a guaranteed bust.  Somehow he drew a lot of comparisons to Bryant Big Country Reeves (obviously on purely racial and physical grounds — their productive resumes were entirely different).  Despite the ridicule, I insisted Love would be the next Wesley Unseld.  I was right.  Kevin Love is having a monster season for Minnesota.  For once, events proved me out.

But I was wrong in one respect.  Love is not proving to be the next Unseld.  Instead he looks a bit more like an updated version of former Detroit Piston center Bill Laimbeer.  I will explain. (note: comparing players from different eras presents syntax challenges.  I’m simply going to use present tense throughout.)

Here is a Win Chart comparing Kevin Love’s 2009-10 season to Bill Laimbeer’s 1985-86 season (the only season I’ve done in Laimbeer’s career).

As you can see, both players are excellent — and very underrated — win producers.  And both men have produced those wins in a similar manner, by compensating for utter lack of athletic ability in two similar ways:  tenacious rebounding and deft outside shooting.

I think its clear that each can be labeled a “great” rebounder.  Yet neither can jump over a village phone book.  Instead, both use physical girth, tenacity, and plain basketball intelligence to track down rebounds at a high rate (both prove what I’ve always contended… most rebounds are gained below the rim and physical girth is more important in rebounding than leaping ability).

And since each have found it difficult to score in the paint, both mitigate that problem by developing their outside games.

I don’t have data on Bill Laimbeer, but I do on Kevin Love.  According to Hoopdata, Kevin Love converts 54.7% of his shots “at the rim”.  Not bad, until you learn that the average power forward converts nearly 63.0% of such shots.  Love actually ranks 4th worst in this category among power forwards who play at least 25 minutes (it won’t shock Bucks fans to learn  that our old buddy Yi is the very worst).

But Love is amongst the best power forwards at knocking down threes.  And that offset has allowed him to keep his scoring efficiency up.

As I say, I don’t have numbers for Laimbeer, but I’ve heard him actually flat out say he developed his jumper because he simply couldn’t score inside at all.  When he stepped outside, though, he could really stroke it.  And, he says, because most big men didn’t want to leave the painted area, most of his jumpers were open jumpers.

Footnote:  If you have read this blog for a while you’re probably thinking, “Ty, don’t you always rip big men who step outside and shoot jumpers?”  Let me be clear here.  I don’t rip big men who step outside simply because they step outside. I rip big men who step outside and then: (a) don’t convert a high enough percentage to justify their outside shooting or; (b) step outside to avoid physical play or neglect their inside duties.

4 Responses to “Kevin Love is channeling Bill Laimbeer”

  1. Josh Says:


    I drafted Kevin Love in my fantasy basketball team at a point where I was mocked for my selection, and not just because of his injury. Partly because of reading your blog, I was confident in his ability, and it’s paid off. Now, if I only had another center worth anything, I might be in the playoff hunt.

    • tywill33 Says:

      Trust the analytics… atta boy!

      Although… caveat… when I say trust the analytics, that doesn’t mean “its guaranteed”. It simply means, you’re odds are better.

      But who wants a guaranteed outcome anyway? Why follow sports if that would be the case?

  2. Palamida Says:

    Ty, quick question: when calculating Mws48, am I correct in thinking that the value of the “secondary stats” is the same as those of “poss. stats”?
    I mean they’re both assigned the same “weight”?
    If so, why? following Berri’s model shouldn’t the “secondary stats” be worth half?

    • tywill33 Says:

      Be careful, I’m sloppy with references in the posts. Sometimes I call possession stats “secondary”. For the definitive version go to the Page marked “How MWS48 is calculated step-by=step”. I’ll answer your full question in a bit.

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