God Only Knows What I’d Be Without You

One is an unselfish, accommodating power forward who is a revelation on the glass and is gradually increasing his range. The other is a more established post threat that can milk his face-up game as well as his back-down game, and should, in theory, be one of the most dominant scoring bigs for the better part of the next decade.

In theory, they should be one of the most fearsome pairs of bigs in the league. But they’re not. They’re nice and fluffy. They’re a cute distraction, but hardly a team. They don’t reinforce each other’s strengths, but counter them while magnifying each other’s weaknesses. They are Kevin Love and Al Jefferson, and despite the fact that they’re both immensely talented and incredibly productive, they will never, ever work as a pairing.

Okay, they might. In fact, they probably will at some point, provided they’re kept together. But at this point in their careers, it seems like they’re both forces that while unstoppable, are slowing and hindering one another, despite their best efforts not to.

It’s one of those cases that has oh so little to do with personality, and everything to do with style and system. Despite the particular strengths and versatility of Love and Jefferson’s games, the overlap is such that they haven’t quite figured out how to best play alongside one another. Or rather, Kurt Rambis hasn’t best figured out how his two best players can be effective on the court at the same time, which is not a good thing. The triangle is an effective system if given the right personnel with the right mindset. But when the squad has such strength in its low post game, is the triple post really necessary? Especially when you just drafted Jonny Flynn and Ricky Rubio? Is that the type of core that you construct the triangle offense around? Really? Really, Kahn?

The plan of attack is seriously flawed, and while that may not quite account for how poor the tandem of Jefferson and Love is defensively at times, it’s enough of a starting point to get worked up about it. Those two are such terrific players that they deserve more creative coaching, or a combination of system and players that can enhance their production rather than simply relying on it.

If you look to the numbers, not all that much appears to be wrong. Jefferson is only a slight tick down in production, despite whispers of a more significant drop-off. Kevin Love is averaging a freaking double-double in less than 30 minutes a game as a sophomore and a reserve. But this? Everything they’re doing right now? It’s in spite of the system. It’s in spite of a coach who, while I admire his want to see the installation of a complex system through to the end, is probably engaging in a futile practice that doesn’t for a second fit the roster he’s been given. Rambis is relying on the fact that his team is more malleable than his own philosophy. That’s hardly reason enough for him to be fired, but considering the pieces he has in Minny and the offense he’s still desperately trying to install, it certainly seems misguided.

Maybe all Love and Jefferson really need to thrive is a little space from each other. Then again, maybe all they really need is a little space from the triangle offense and the roster-assembling talents of David Kahn.

Seth Carstens