Tale of the Tape: Kevin Love vs. Sam Mitchell

Tale of the Tape: Kevin Love vs. Sam Mitchell

Cristy Brusoe
Web Editorial Assistant

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Editor's Note: As part of our 25th season celebration, Timberwolves.com will put together a Tale of the Tape each week during the month of December showcasing a fantasy basketball matchup between the Wolves' current starting five and its starters from the 1989-90 inaugural season. This week, we wrap up with the power forwards: Kevin Love vs. Sam Mitchell.


Upon joining the Timberwolves for their 1989 inaugural season, Sam Mitchell was the league’s oldest NBA rookie at 26 years of age. Mitchell was drafted by the Houston Rockets in the 3rd round of the 1985 NBA Draft. Mitchell, a last minute cut during Rockets training camp, pursued his dreams of playing professional basketball by joining the CBA, USBL and Montpellier team from France. It wasn’t until 1989 that Mitchell would get another opportunity in the NBA, joining the Minnesota Timberwolves for their inaugural season. Mitchell played 11 of his 13 seasons in the NBA with the Timberwolves. In 2004, Mitchell returned to the NBA as a coach for the Toronto Raptors. In 2007 he was named NBA Coach of the Year.

In 2008, Kevin Love announced he was leaving UCLA to join the NBA. He was taken 5th overall in the draft by the Memphis Grizzlies, who immediately traded him to the Timberwolves for O.J. Mayo. Love was sensational his first year, ranking first in the league in offensive rebound percentage, becoming the first rookie to do so since Hakeem Olajuwon. In six seasons with the Timberwolves, Love has gone on to become a two time NBA All-Star (2011, 2012) and Olympic Gold Medalist (2012). He also holds the record for longest streak for double figures in points and rebounds since the ABA-NBA merger. Love is well-known as the face of the Timberwolves franchise.

One on One:

Advantage Kevin Love Sam Mitchell  
Height/Weight X   Love absolutely wins out in thsi category. Mitchell was undersized as a power forward.
Free Throws X X Love is solid at the line, making 83 percent of his free throws. Mitchell is ranked second all-tiime in free-throws made for the Wolves.
Field Goals X X Love has steadily converted 45 percent of his field goal attemtps since arriving in Minnesota. Mitchell shot around that same percentage.
3-Point Shot X   Mitchell wasn't known for his 3-point shot early in his career, while Love has excelled--even winning the 3-Point Contest at All-Star Weekend 2012.
Steals   X Early on, Mitchell collected more steals per agme than Love. Love is surely catching up.
Rebounds X   Love is a rebounding matchine, averaging an NBA-best 13.8 per game this season. 
Blocks   X Surprisingly with his shorter stature, Mitchell tipped away the ball more often, nearly once per game.
Assists X   Mitchell averaged just 1.1 assissts per game for his career and never had more than 2.0 per game in a season. This year, Love is heaving outlet passes and feeds in the half-court set on the regular, and he's got 4.2 assists per night as a result.
Points Per Game X   Mitchell averaged a solid 1.7 points per game in 1989-90, but Love has been unstoppable this year (26.1 ppg, 3rd in the NBA).
Total Score 7 4 Kevin Love holds the solid 7-4 advantage in this head-to-head matchup.



At first glance, one wouldn’t imagine this tale of the tape match-up to be as competitive as it turned out to be. Love is a franchise player and accomplished All-Star for the team, where as Mitchell played the role of sixth man on tape.

However, it was Mitchell’s well-rounded game, young leadership and overall character and role for this organization that draws a comparison to the player that Kevin Love has become.

Love joined the club during a time of transition and turmoil. Through his six seasons with the Wolves, his game has evolved and continued to thrive during times of instability. Love became the voice of the Wolves early on and has solidified himself as the go-to-guy ever since.

Even early on Mitchell was known as a team leader for the Wolves, often coming off the bench as a sixth man. Mitchell was known as the mentor to Kevin Garnett during his final few years with the Wolves. His leadership and poise was influential on many young players. To this day, Mitchell is the Wolves second leading scorer and rebounder in franchise history with 7,161 points and 3,030 rebounds. Only Kevin Garnett has played more games as a Timberwolf than Sam Mitchell (757 games).

Kevin Love just recently passed Mitchell in total rebounds for the Timberwolves, making him seconds most all-time behind Garnett.

At 6-foot-6, Mitchell alternated between playing small and power forward. He was undersized for the position but started 30 games for the Timberwolves during their inaugural season. Kevin Love’s height/weight combo would have been too much for Mitchell to guard, thus giving Love a huge advantage both offensively and defensively.

It was the little things that keeps Mitchell within striking distance, such as his quick hands on defense or the number of tipped and altered shots he produced.

Mitchell was a steady force for the Wolves throughout his career, averaging a consistent number of points (9.5) and rebounds (4.0). He was a source of knowledge and his impact on the organization goes far beyond his numbers. However, Love is on his way to becoming one of the best players in team history. His statistics along with his youthful veteran presence could guide the Timberwolves to their first playoff berth in 10 years.

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.