Trading for Love is a no-brainer


Because this is the Internet, camps have formed since the Cleveland Cavaliers signed LeBron James and began exploring the possibility of trading No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a package for Kevin Love. Are you #TeamWiggins or #TeamLove?

Though it's certainly possible to be part of #TeamWiggins because of belief in his upside and the value of his cheap rookie contract, the debate has revealed that not everyone is sold that Love is a superstar. As someone who's on the record believing that Love is a top-five player in the NBA and one of the most valuable to ever hit the trade market, let me explain why he is:

An elite scorer

We'll start with this: Love is not just a good scorer, he's a great one. He has managed to expand his perimeter game without sacrificing his interior scoring and trips to the free throw line. Last season, Love was one of four players in the league to average at least two 3-pointers and six free throws per game. (Love, who averaged 2.5 3s and 6.8 FTs, cleared both marks with ease.) The rest of the group, per Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and James Harden.

Because so much of his offense comes in the efficient spots around the basket, at the free throw line and beyond the 3-point arc, Love has pushed his usage rate to superstar territory the past three seasons without sacrificing his efficiency, as measured by true shooting percentage. Here's how the league as a whole rated by these two measures last season:

I've marked on the chart league averages (a 20 percent usage rate, which is listed horizontally on the chart, and a .541 true shooting percentage, listed vertically) and the line that reflects the typical trade-off between usage and efficiency. A player anywhere along that line is approximately an average scorer, and the farther that players are above it, the better they are. Let's zoom in on the top right quadrant, featuring players who are above average in both categories.

This time, I've shifted the line upward to make it easier to separate the best of the best scorers. Durant and LeBron James stand on their own. As I wrote during the season, Durant and James have shattered the previous threshold for the combination of usage and efficiency. Behind them are Harden and Stephen Curry, who are more efficient than any other non-MVP high scorers. Love and Dirk Nowitzki make up the third tier, ahead of less efficient players who use more possessions like Anthony and Russell Westbrook.

More than just a scorer

Love's work on the glass is well established. His rebound totals overstate his ability because Love plays more minutes than rebounding specialists, and spending so much time on the perimeter has made him merely an average offensive rebounder. Still, Love ranked fifth among regular players in defensive rebound rate in 2013-14.

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