Kevin Love is not an All-Star (yet)

Benjamin Polk —  February 4, 2011 — 15 Comments

Well the Western Conference coaches have made up their minds about the All-Star reserves. You can check them out here. One thing you might notice is that Kevin Love is not among those listed. I know that just this morning I prepared us all for this eventuality, and it was certainly gratifying to hear Charles and EJ and Kenny and C-Webb express outrage in their boozily solipsistic, Gentlemen’s-Club-for-bros-y way (and even more gratifying to here the Round Mound refer to himself as a “big black grizzly bear”), but I’m surprised to notice that it still burns me up a little.

Now, first: I’m telling you this with the full awareness that, in all likelihood, David Stern will choose K-Love to replace Yao Ming on the West Side (it’s very hard to imagine Stern passing up a player as “clean cut” and “wholesome” as our guy). Next: I’m fully open to the argument that, a) because of his defensive shortcomings (although Kevin Pelton puts those nicely into perspective here), Love is less valuable to his team than Pau Gasol, Tim Duncan and Blake Griffin are to theirs and that b) because of his vast contributions to the game and his even vaster on-court flexibility, Duncan deserves to be on every All-Star team until the day he can no longer walk. Third: I would refer you to my argument from earlier today that the All-Star game is so much more spectacle than content that none of these previous arguments matter in the slightest.

That’s fine. But what I can’t abide is the lame argument that the third or fourth best player on the best team in the league is intrinsically more valuable than the very best player on a very bad team. I realize that, PER and WinShare and Adjusted Plus/Minus notwithstanding, there is no absolute comprehensive measure of a player’s worth, nor may there ever be. But the simplistic obsession with one incredibly imprecise stat–that being team victories–as the ultimate arbiter does a huge disservice both to the often sublime, passionate contributions of individuals to losing teams, and to the deeply complex enterprise that is winning NBA basketball games

Grabbing a stunning 23% of the available rebounds while you’re on the floor; scoring 21 points per 36 minutes with a .593 true shooting percentage as the second (or sometimes third, depending on Darko) offensive option on your team; notching an assist rate of 11.0 (better than Dirk, better than Howard and Amar’e, better than Durant)–these things are astoundingly difficult to do against NBA competition, no matter how bad your teammates are.

Benjamin Polk

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15 responses to Kevin Love is not an All-Star (yet)

  1. No doubt. Definitely feeling burned for K-Love. Apparently the cologne wasn’t enough.

    One stat you left out about no comprehensive measure of a player’s worth is Wins Produced, which some might argue comes close. And in this albeit debatable stat, Kevin Love is #1 in the league. So yeah, there’s that too.

  2. K-Love should be starting. If David Stern doesn’t vote him in, I will turn my back to this sport entirely. The NBA will be dead to me.
    I am so spitting mad, I haven’t been this mad about sports since Kevin McHale traded Mayo for Love in the middle of the night after the draft. Now, isn’t that ironic?

  3. K Love is an all-star caliber player. But I find it hard to be “spitting mad” as my friend Dug is above because there are no egregious participants in his place. Who are you going to spit at Tim Duncan arguably the best power forward to ever play the game? Pau Gasol, a back to back champion? Blake Griffin? One of the best rookies ever? Now I’m sure you can debate Kevin over any of these guys, but there are arguments for both sides in each case. Can be sick, even upset, but “spitting mad” a bit over the top.

  4. Problem is the NBA has been doing this for years. Elton Brand was a 20-10-3 block guy for the Clippers for years and he never got the time of day because of wins (actually he lost out to Wally 9 years ago, so maybe this is karmic payback this year).

    The flaw this year is giving Duncan so much credit for the wins when he is hardly breaking a sweat. Meanwhile LaMarcus Aldridge is playing nearly 40 minutes a game, holding the Blazers afloat. Z-Bo in Memphis is doing the same, as both of them are playing far more than Duncan and just as well (if not better). But I guess it’s more important to get Tim in there for a 13th straight year than it is to give one of those guys just ONE All-Star appearance.

  5. Also, I wouldn’t be so sure Stern is going to take Love as Yao’s injury replacement. Sources told Yahoo last night Steve Nash is a strong favorite for that last slot.

  6. When did wins start to factor into it anyway? This isn’t the MVP award. This is the All-Star Game. I thought this was about finding the best individual players, not the players most valuable to their teams.

  7. I’m still skeptical that Stern will vote in Love, because deep down I still harbor the feeling that he hates the Timberwolves, a remnant from the ridiculous penalty handed down following the Joe Smith fiasco. Stern is a villain, so I suspect he will do whatever he can to continue that villiany.

  8. I think coaches are used to seeing players of only modest skill accumulate high scoring averages on horrible teams. See, Campbell, Tony. Thus, they attribute Love’s numbers to the same phenomenon, that average players on bad teams take a lot of shots and score a lot of points, but really aren’t that good. That is, they have high per game averages, but they are inefficient. But this is exactly the wrong paradigm for Love. The guy doesn’t take that many shots, he is not featured on offense, they run no plays for him, he is incredibly efficient.

    What pisses me off is the argument that Love only gets the numbers he gets because he’s on a bad team. That’s just not true [obviously, I can’t prove this]. But if he went to another team where he was the third option on offense his game would be exactly like it is on the Wolves. The man does not eat possessions and yet he still puts up amazing numbers! If Glen Davis and Love switched places, for example, Love would average around 30 minutes/game for the Celtics and probably score 23 points and grab 12 rebounds. He would get so many open shots, so many rebounds, so many assists.

  9. Do you think that it has more to do with David Kahn then Kevin Love? Having Love on the All Star team brings a little spot light to Minneapolis and possible success in the future. It seems everyone wants to dump on Kahn for being the worst GM ever. Glen Taylor as a dumb trusting owner is where they want to keep the focus. Their win/loss record supports that. Kevin on the All Star Team doesn’t

  10. I really like love but NASH!!!!!

  11. littleboxes, this is the point exactly. If anything, a player’s efficiency numbers should be hurt by playing on a bad team. Do you think that if Kevin Love played on the Lakers or the Thunder or even the Blazers that there would be two players attempting to box him out on every offensive possession? Or that he would somehow shoot open threes less efficiently, or even see fewer of them? I call the inefficient-high-volume-scorer-on-a-bad-team thing, “The Mike James Phenomenon,” but Tony Campbell works just as well. In either case, this is most definitely not that.

  12. If Kevin Love of this year had been in any kind of evidence last year, this is a no-brainer. Heck, it’s still a no-brainer but in the end, what’s he’s done, he’s done for three months and in All Star games — any sport, really — it almost never comes down to what you’ve done THAT season. Love will be there next season and the season after and the season after that. I’m much more concerned with whether he’ll be HERE.

  13. That’s right, Chris. Actually, Love is totally off the charts in all of the measures of production. The only problem is that defense is his greatest weakness and as far as I know the only comprehensive stat that even purports to account for defense is Adjusted Plus/Minus. And that one still seems to be so full of noise that its hard to know how to interpret it.

    Hey, thanks for all the comments everybody.

  14. Kahn has been (and I assume still is) friends with Stern. I can’t remember where I read it but Stern gave a letter of recommendation for David Kahn to attend law school. I dislike Stern and I believe he should have been out of “power” 10 years ago due to the way the NBA doesn’t enforce any rules (traveling, carrying, phantom calls). I always thought he hated McHale and Taylor for their non-chalant explaination for the Joe Smith thing…they were all “every team does it, they just don’t get caught” (which is true but Taylor put the figures on paper). I believe Stern has maybe turned the corner on the Wolves with the Kahn hire….not sure why exactly but it couldn’t do anything but help.

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