A happy marriage in Minnesota

It’s always fun to watch a really good player operate a system that perfectly fits his game.

Over in Minnesota, it appears Kevin Love and Rick Adelman’s corner offense are the path to achieving such a relationship. Adelman’s system positions Love in a spot where he can do a ton of damage, and Love has demonstrated an acute understanding of where his shots come from, and how to get the most out of his role.

Start with location; that is, where Love’s getting his looks. A full 75 percent of his shots in this young season have come from the beyond the arc or right at the rim, and he’s second in the league in free throw attempts. This is no surprise given where he handles the ball. On most possessions, Adelman’s offense, which is characterized by clever screen-the-screener action and plenty of hard curls that start at the wing and rip around a screen near the elbow, places Love about one long step inside the 3-point line.

This is such a sneaky and subtle way to get Love open beyond the arc. If Love stood right at the 3-point line, like most spot up shooters, defenses would know exactly how far to roam when helping off him. Instead, Love’s defender often thinks he is close enough to close out after lending help, only to discover that Love has taken one giant step backwards and is now wide open with his toes on the 3-point line.

The other thing Love does on most every possession is set screens. Lots and lots of screens. Huge shooters like Love, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant Ryan Anderson are just miserable to defend when they set hard screens. On almost every possession, Love either 1) sets a down screen for a curling shooter 2) a ball screen on the lane line extended or 3) executes a dribble handoff with one of the Wolves guards.

Just as his positioning right inside the 3-point line affords him extra space when he backs up just one step, his screens not only loosen the defense from the man he’s screening, but have the joint effect of pulling Love’s defender away from his hip.

Even though he’s shooting relatively poorly from deep so far (just 29 percent), Love behaves like the Wolves’ best or second-best deep shooter on most possessions … until Chase Budinger returns, he probably is. It goes without saying that most guys who guard Love aren’t well versed in the fundamentals of perimeter defense, but good luck sticking a smaller, quicker player on him to crowd his jumper. Before one of his teammates even shoots the ball, Love transforms from outside shooter to rebounding fiend, bull rushing his way to the rim.

Again, his position on the perimeter comes into play. Boxing out is about creating sufficient contact to freeze your man, then going after the ball like a maniac. When Love’s down in the paint, he shows a knack for sensing when a shot will go up and immediately moving so as to avoid a clean box out. He’s tough enough to wrangle when the defender is right next to him. But give him a six-foot running head start from the perimeter and he’s impossible to deter.

Instead of trotting back on defense like most big men when a shot goes up, Love is like a defensive end, using a mix of power and elusiveness to shove his defender too far under the rim or simply scoot around him into prime put back position.

Adelman’s corner offense has been a model for teams like the Miami Heat for years because it keeps the paint open for cuts, drives and quick post ups. Run responsibly, the corner’s spacing and movement works for virtually any personnel, especially with a big man who passes like Love (4 assists per game so far).

Love’s unique combination of catch-and-shoot touch and brilliant offensive rebounding is a natural fit, and we should expect to see Adelman continually insert clever wrinkles to take advantage of Love’s special talents.

The MVP numbers may not last, but the headaches Adelman and Love give defenses will persist all season long.


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  1. [...] at Hoopspeak, they have an excellent piece up on the early-season success Kevin Love is finding in Rick Adelman’s corner offense. Start [...]

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