Column: Love's Shooting Keeps Evolving
The media talked to Kevin Love this week about his 3-point shooting. They asked him about what it means to his game, especially since he’s really developed into one of the league’s best despite coming into the league not known for being able to shoot from beyond the arc. He is, after all, a power forward, and it’s rare to have someone at his position stretch the floor quiteDanc the way he does.
When he was a rookie, he shot 2-of-19 from beyond the arc. Not exactly Ray Allen material.
But what we’ve learned about Kevin Love over the past six years is that he’s a tireless worker when it comes to his craft. He has the right offseason approach. All the great players bring something back with them the next season. Love’s done it every year, whether it’s transforming his body through strict eating habits and alternative training (yoga, etc.), developing a baby hook inside or continuing to foster his 3-point shooting.
[CLICK HERE to view Kevin Love's evolution as a 3-point shooter in this Timberwolves.com infographic.]
He’s made it awfully difficult for opponents to guard him, and it makes for a lot of those Don’t Blink moments on the Target Center court throughout the season.
“It’s been huge for me,” Love said on Tuesday. “It’s something that at least the last 3-4 years, whether it’s been here, whether it’s been Team USA, I’ve just been able to expand the floor, expand my game and help the team win. It’s been a great, great tool for me. Something that we’ve been able to [use to] put different wrinkles into the offense. And it’s fun.”
But just how much has Love’s game evolved on the offensive end? The 3-point shooting is just one aspect of it, and since he just broke the Wolves’ single-season franchise record for most 3-pointers in a season (he passed Rashad McCants’ 142 last Sunday and never looked back).
Let’s start with this season. He’s shooting 52 percent (10-of-19) from the left corner, and he’s shooting 38.7 percent from above the break on the left wing. That’s where he goes most frequently, as he’s shot 518 balls from that area over the course of his career and 212 this season alone. He’s 29-of-82 this season from the top of the key, 26-of-68 from the right wing above the break and 2-of-6 from the right corner.
Clearly, the left side to the middle is where he does the majority of his damage. You’ll notice it if you’re looking for it. It makes for entertaining situations, too, because those shots generally happen in front of some major figures in their respective cities. Spike Lee in New York and Jack Nicholson in Los Angeles sits right in those courtside seats. It’s coincidental, but it makes for memorable moments.
But here’s the funny thing about Love’s 3-point shooting: His most comfortable spots from distance were not exactly go-to spots as a rookie. He shot 1-of-2 from the left corner and 0-for-6 from the left wing in 2008-09. He’s continued to build from that first season, and now it’s one of his go-to spots. Aside from the circle around the hoop eight feet and in, where he’s shot 414 of his attempts this year, the second most frequented spot on the floor is the left wing above the break (204). Those two spots account for 56.6 percent of his shots this year.
He’s shot just 473 times from any other spot on the floor.
The one other thing about his shooting this season that is so alarming is that there are really only three spots on the floor where Love isn’t at least a league-wide average shooter. He’s 2-of-6 from the right corner 3, he’s 7-of-24 from just inside the free-throw line in the lane (8-16 feet), and he’s 5-of-16 from above the free-throw line and inside the key (16-24 feet). Other than those three spots, Love is at least league average or better. Compared to his other seasons, where Love had much more red on his shot chart, this year Love is predominately yellow and green. As a rookie, for instance, six of his 13 shot chart zones on the court were red. That shows that he’s developing into a much more robust and dangerous shooter from all areas of the floor.
Then, when you factor in how he’s 4.2 assists per game (nearly twice his career average), and it helps you understand how difficult it is for opposing teams to scout for Love. You don’t know where he’s going to shoot from or when he’s going to feed a teammate, but regardless what he decides it will likely be a successful venture.
That’s what makes Love so uniquely talented, and that’s why he’s such a fun player to watch.
And we know he’ll keep improving.
“It’s just something I’ve been blessed with and able to have a pretty good touch from outside,” Love said. “It’s something I’ll continue to work on.”