Last week saw things get back to normal here at “You’re The GM” with DeAndre Jordan beating Roy Hibbert at a center. The result surprised few people, with most preferring the overall athletic superiority and upside of Jordan’s game. This week promises to be much closer however, with two of the top five power forwards in the league battling it out. The two players in question are Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge, with both having slightly different seasons success wise on the court to this point.
It has been quite an odd 18 months to two years for Love, who has seen his stock rise then fall and then rise once more. The fact he plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves has gone against him really since day one, although his own personal play can be on another level quite often. Had this question been asked last year, a lot of people would have picked Love instantly. In fact, if this had been a question of picking one of either Love or Blake Griffin back then, a lot of people would have taken Love in that instance too. But back to back breaks to his hand and some streaky performances have changed some people’s perception of him. He has never played a game in the playoffs in his six-season career, which is surely a knock on him. But then again, the franchise as a whole seems to always be taking one step forward and two steps back, and that is not all of his fault. This season, like the last five, he is averaging a double-double with 26.5 points and 13.1 rebounds. He is capable of massive nights where he propels his team to victory,and triple-doubles are common enough where he is concerned. With the regression of Ricky Rubio and little else to excite the Minnesota fans, it really is all on Love to make something happen for this team. That is something even LeBron James got fed up doing in Cleveland, so nobody could blame Love if he eventually went to play elsewhere. That the Timberwolves play in the talent-packed Western Conference is but another unfortunate circumstance Love and his teammates have to try to overcome to be relevant. So for all of Love’s individual brilliance the question still remains, just how good is he? We don’t know how he plays when the pressure is really on, and a bit like Kyrie Irving at this moment, he is but a great player on a poor team. This is a label nobody wants. As a player he stretches the play as well as any power forward in the league. This season he has made 3-point shots are at .379 clip, which isn’t a brilliant number but are serviceable for a player who can do so much else with the ball as well. Injuries aside, Love is a deserved All-Star, it is just a matter of if you think his lack of success or playoff action with the Timberwolves should count heavily against him. Could he co-exist with another superstar, and bring sustained glory to another team in a bigger market?
Beginning with the obvious, LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trail Blazers is having a career year. More than that, he is the best player on the second-most surprising package in the league this season after the Phoenix Suns. Most had the Trail Blazers in the playoff mix and not much more. Right now they are pushing hard to have home-court advantage come playoff time. This team is going to the playoffs, unlike Love and Minnesota, and Aldridge is a massive reason for this. However, a couple of other factors beyond Aldridge’s control have contributed to this great year for him. Getting a proper center in the form of Robin Lopez to play at the 5 allowed Aldridge to play the vast majority of his minutes at his preferred power forward position. Having somebody with the height of Lopez allows Aldridge to play against players either of a similar height to him or smaller. His stellar handling giving him an advantage over essentially every other 4 in the game. The second factor in his continued rise to the top is having a top point guard in the form of Damian Lillard on his team. Lillard, in his second year in the league but already an All-Star, is the type of player Kevin Love craves to have on his team. A leader at the point guard position who demands occasional double teams, can take some of the scoring burden off of Aldridge and is an astute passer of the ball. Aldridge is well aware these two things have helped him become a more effective player, and recognizing this is also part of the package, his understanding of his game and how those around him can help. Although he too is averaging a double-double this season, his personal numbers are down a bit on that of Love. You can take this in one of two ways. Either he doesn’t contribute as much as his counterpart in Minnesota, or he has better teammates who are able to do more of the heavy lifting with him on a daily basis. One potential concern though, is the recent injuries Aldridge has picked up. He will miss the next two games with a back contusion, and missed some time earlier in the campaign as well. Certainly if this team have dreams of getting out of the first round of the playoffs, their All-Star forward needs to be fighting fit. Picking up injuries at the wrong times, like coming up to the playoffs, is something the great players don’t do. If Aldridge wants to be great, and he was deservedly been mentioned in MVP conversations earlier in the year, he needs to make a mark when the playoffs begin.
This is a close one, especially given the fact Kevin Love represents such intrigue. Put him on a good team and there is every chance he could be the missing piece that gets a team a championship. He is that good a player, he just hasn’t gotten the chance to show it yet. With that being said, he has clashed with his front office before and his injury record is far from unblemished. Aldridge is having a brilliant year on a very good team, but has he reached his ceiling in terms of how good he can be? You would have to think probably, while it seems Love has another level he could yet get to. When all of that is considered who would you rather have on your team, LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love? Let us know in the comment section below or by getting in touch with me on twitter @LucaLockheart. As before, most votes wins!