Minnesota Timberwolves: Are Kevin Love’s Shooting Woes Rust, Injury, or Both?

 Kevin Love has finally made his triumphant return to the Minnesota Timberwolves after an early-season freak hand injury. The Wolves have played six games since his return, with just two wins to show for it. Love has been a beast on the boards, but has struggled with his shooting. Is it rust or something more?

A closer look at Love’s numbers shows that he’s performing at a very impressive level, but offensively, it’s because of volume.

Season Age Tm Lg G GS MP FG% 3P% FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2012-13 24 MIN NBA 6 6 35.7 .370 .194 .683 3.8 11.5 15.3 1.7 1.3 0.5 2.0 2.7 21.7
Career NBA 275 193 31.8 .454 .362 .818 3.9 8.2 12.1 1.9 0.6 0.5 1.9 2.4 17.4
Provided by Basketball-Reference.comView Original Table
Generated 12/1/2012.

His shooting percentages are all below his career averages and well below his numbers from the previous two seasons. Love had been wearing a glove to protect his hand over most of the first three games he played, before tearing it off in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors.

In his past three games, he’s shot 16-for-48 (33.3 percent) from the field. If it were rust, he’d be showing signs of improvement instead of regression. There’s significant reason to believe it’s conditioning when we look at his shooting splits.

2012-13 Shooting Splits (courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com)

1st Quarter: 48.4 percent
2nd Quarter: 42.9 percent
3rd Quarter: 28.6 percent
4th Quarter: 32.1 percent

He’s starting the games hot, but losing his legs late in games. Furthermore, he hasn’t made a three-pointer in the fourth quarter (0-for-9). This is a stark contrast to his 2011-12 season, where he was more effective in the second half from the field.

It is worth noting that while his field goal percentages were better in the second half of games, the three-point issue was the same. As the games wore on, his legs and body tired and he wasn’t able to effectively shoot from the outside.

Part of the problem with being such a dominant rebounder is that it wears on his body. He’s crushing the glass right now, with an average of 15.3 rebounds per game. However, that has to affect his energy levels.

Although it’s a small sample size, his rest splits further the idea that his shooting struggles are an aberration and will be improved as he gets himself into full basketball shape.

His two best games so far have been his debut against the Denver Nuggets (34 points, 14 rebounds, 48.0 FG%) and his game against the Sacramento Kings after two days of rest (23 points, 24 rebounds, 47.1 FG%). He hasn’t had another two-day rest period.

The Wolves don’t play again until December 4, which means Love will be on three days of rest. Watch for him to blow up with a big game and keep an eye on those shooting percentages. There’s no reason to worry, as he’ll continue to get into shape and those numbers (and the Wolves wins) will continue to rise.

Piece originally written by HoopsHabit for Bleacher Report

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  • http://chinwesports.blogspot.com Chinwe Orie

    Nice read. I think the injury set him off. I think the injury caused the rust.

    • Michael Dunlap

      We’ll definitely see soon, Chinwe. I’m really interested to see how Love plays when Rubio gets back as well. Can’t wait!