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NBA AM: The Pressure Is Now On Kevin Love
Posted By Lang Greene On August 21, 2013 @ 8:49 am In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
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Let’s be upfront. While Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love is a phenomenal basketball player, after five seasons in the league the question remains on whether he is an elite level guy.
Love’s resume features plenty of accomplishments since entering the league in 2008. There’s a Most Improved Player Award, two All-Star game appearances, an All-NBA second team nod and a gold medal from the 2012 Olympic Games.
Despite all of those notable accolades, there is one glaring hole on the resume: the lack of a trip to the postseason where the game’s stars typically shine the brightest.
To be fair the talent level in Minnesota hasn’t been ideal over the years but as the 2014 campaign nears the team is a strongly positioned perch from a talent standpoint.
The team re-signed emerging center Nikola Pekovic to a five-year deal in free agency. The club also signed Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer in free agency, while netting talented prospects Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng in the draft.
Minnesota hasn’t reached the playoffs since a Western Conference Finals appearance back in 2004, but new president of basketball operations Flip Saunders believes the core foundation is in place offensively to make a run.
“When you look at [Pekovic] and Ricky [Rubio] and Kevin and the other players like Kevin Martin, the one thing I said, ‘I know Coach Adelman and the way he calls plays, and they don’t overlap,’ ” Saunders told Steve Aschburner of NBA.com. “What I mean by that is the space they take up, they don’t overlap each other. Pek’s got his space down there and not too many guys are going to get around him, and same thing with Ricky and what he does, and Kevin on the perimeter and Kevin Martin moving without the ball. That gives you the opportunity offensively.”
The Wolves have compiled a 74-156 (.321) mark over the past three seasons. To put it in perspective, the Houston Rockets made it into the Western Conference playoffs, as an eighth seed, with a 45-37 record (.549).
Love, who has been critical of Minnesota’s front office in the past, has seemingly bought into Saunders’ vision for the franchise. The veteran forward can opt out of his current deal in the summer of 2015.
Damian Lillard Seeks To Play Less Next Season
There is a lot more optimism surrounding the Portland Trail Blazers these days and one of the main reasons is the emergence of point guard Damian Lillard. The Blazers selected Lillard with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft and the former Weber State standout responded by winning Rookie of the Year last season.
One cause for concern involves wear and tear on the body. Lillard played a league leading 3,167 minutes last season, while averaging 38.6 minutes per game.
Lillard made it known he’d like to play less minutes next season in an effort to protect his body and play stronger when it counts the most.
“Sometimes when you’re out there (playing) so many minutes, your body can wear down,” Lillard said according to Sean Highkin of USA TODAY Sports. “So you’re not always productive at the highest levels because you might be worn down.”
The Blazers aggressively targeted upgrading their backcourt this summer. The club drafted high scoring guard C.J. McCollum with the tenth overall pick in June’s draft. The Blazers also signed former All-Star guard Mo Williams to a two-year deal in free agency giving the team even more lineup flexibility in its backcourt next season.
Outside of the backcourt additions, the Blazers also added Thomas Robinson and Robin Lopez to its frontcourt. Lillard is completely onboard with the team’s new additions.
“It was definitely what we needed,” Lillard said. “We needed size and we got that. We needed more depth, and we definitely got that.
“I think we’ve made a lot of moves to help our team,” he added. “Now we’ve just gotta figure out a way to develop that chemistry and perform on the floor together.”
Lillard averaged 19 points and 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists last season. The Blazers finished with a 33-49 record last season and missed the playoffs by 12 games.
Cavaliers Officially Sign Top Pick Anthony Bennett
The Cleveland Cavaliers have officially signed No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett to a contract. Bennett’s deal is worth $16.7 million over the first three-years and the Cavaliers will hold team options in 2016 and 2017.
The former UNLV product will join a frontcourt which features former All-Star center Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao and 2011 lottery pick Tristan Thompson.
Cleveland has been extremely busy this summer as their front office believes the current roster can make a strong run at a playoff berth. The team also signed guard Jarrett Jack and forward Earl Clark in free agency.
Bennett missed the entire duration of summer league while he recovered from a torn labrum.
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