If you are anywhere on the planet Earth, you have tasted a Coca-Cola. Everyone knows what it tastes like, even if they don’t even drink soda. Its richness, quality, and depth are known world round as the crème de la crème of soft drinks. If anything is substituted for it, customers will throw their hands up in disgust. If there was ever a time honed formula for how to create a cola, Coca-Cola has mastered it.
Other companies have tried, in vain, to replicate the formula. The precise combination and percentage of said ingredients are held under lock and key in some top-secret vault in Atlanta. Pepsi comes close but literally no company has ever been able to reverse engineer the unique Coke taste. Your garden variety supermarket brand cola gets 97% of the formula right, but it is the remaining 3% difference that makes an inferior product. The difference between success and failure is determined by that small 3%.
Similarly, building a championship basketball team requires the right combination of ingredients. The easiest way to cop a trophy would be to draft a Jordan, Kobe, or Tim Duncan. Another way is to trade(or sign via free agency) a young, bona fide superstar (Shaq or Lebron James) and help them get over the hump. Lastly, you can go the route of the 2004 Detroit Pistons and fashion a team of hard-working role players together to create the perfect storm of mettle and toughness needed to win a title. These are the three time honed methods to win a title. No championship over the last 30 years (perhaps ever) was won without using one of these blueprints. Unlike, Coca-Cola, the formula for winning a championship is not hidden behind in a safe. It is right there in front of us. The proof is in the pudding.
All of this leads to the news coming out of Minnesota last weekend. The man known as Kevin Love is going to be a free agent in 2015 and there are rumblings that he wants out of dodge. Given these circumstances, it is certain that he will have his fair share of suitors willing to give him max dollars, because he is a three-time All-Star, Olympic gold medal holder, and a double-double machine. How many guys can do what Kevin can do, plus start at least 5 fast breaks a game with superb outlet passing? Not many.
However, If Love is so great, why hasn’t he made the playoffs? Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony received flack early in their careers for never getting out of the first round. Kevin hasn’t even been in the first round. Think about that. Jordan won the title in his seventh season. Entering his seventh season, Love hasn't even been in the playoffs. Not once. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any three-time all-star that failed to make the playoffs once in his first six seasons. This is basketball, a sport where one guy can make a huge difference on the success of a team. A superstar (max) player and four NBA caliber guys should make your team a shoo-in to at least make the playoffs. If not, then what is the point of paying the guy a max salary? Harden made the playoffs last year with two back-up point guards (Lin/Beverly), a second rounder (Chandler Parsons), and Omer Asik. Yet, Love can’t get there with Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, and Ricky Rubio?
Speaking of Rubio it is very telling that he had this to say about Love:
"he is a special player, the numbers that he puts up are incredible, but still the leader has to be somebody else (...) He leads in scoring, in other things, but in voice he is not the type of player that wants to be or that can be, no? There are different types of leaders. Still, it did not have to have been him, it should have been Kevin Martin, with a little more experience, or even I can take a step further and start to be the definitive leader."
Is this what you want from a max guy? A non-leader who gets video game stats but couldn’t lead a team that was full of young and impressionable players. What does this say about Klove? Can you imagine a championship team built around a guy who couldn’t even motivate a bunch of young twenty-somethings to overachieve on a night-in, night-out basis?
Just like you can’t make Coca-Cola with spoiled milk, you can’t build a championship team around a player who can’t even make the playoffs on his own. The stats he puts up look pretty but ultimately they have only led to fantasy titles*. Nothing more. He has not shown that he is a leader or a winner, and has openly been a spoiled sport ever since he signed his extension with David Kahn. I don’t know if Kevin Love will ever get the mettle needed to win a championship (or even make the playoffs) and because I can’t answer that question affirmatively, I certainly would not build a team around him. As a Knick fan I know plenty about building teams around guys like Love, and it tastes like decade old flat soda.
As always, thank you for reading.
Twitter - @RYANNARsayshi
*In full disclosure, I indeed had Kevin Love on my fantasy team and won the title.