It sounds like the perfect Hollywood story: the California kid who played college ball at UCLA comes home to rescue his favorite once-great franchise. This, however, is not a movie. And Kevin Love is not the Los Angeles Lakers‘ savior.
In November, the Lakers’ signed Kobe Bryant to a two-year, $24 million extension. That contract created a situation that couldn’t include Love. Well… it could, but not if they wanted to win before Bryant’s contract expires. The Lakers only have cap space to sign one more maximum-salary player. With Bryant in decline, that player has to be the alpha on a championship team.
Love is not that player.
Yes, Love does have alpha numbers. He averages 26 points, 13 rebounds and four assists per night. His 27.5 Player Efficiency Rating ranks third in the league. That is higher than Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. But the issue with Love isn’t performance, it’s position.
A stretch-power forward led one championship team in the last 15 years: the 2011 Dallas Mavericks. Their championship required the other team’s best player — who happened to be the best player in the world — to plop himself in a corner for half of the series. The Mavs built the perfect team around Dirk Nowitzki. The result: one title.
The teams that win multiple titles have a dominant wing or great two-way big man. The Chicago Bulls of the 90s had two dominant wings, Jordan and Pippen. The Spurs teams had two great big men, Robinson and Duncan. The 2000-2002 Lakers that won three consecutive titles had one of each: Shaquille O’Neal and Bryant.
The only free-agents that fit the description in 2014, or 2015 for that matter, are LeBron James and Anthony. If the Lakers can’t get either of them, it’s time to follow the lead of Washington politicians and prepare for 2016.