Kevin Love: Young/Improving
Photo by Akakumo
It’s official, friends. Kevin Love is the Most Improved Player in this NBA. So that’s cool. This from the Wolves:
The league’s leading rebounder at 15.2 boards per game, Love tallied 20 or more rebounds on 13 occasions and recorded 11 games with 20+ points/20+ rebounds (after doing so once in his previous two seasons combined). Love had four 20/20 games during November and three consecutive 20/20s in March, both feats that hadn’t been accomplished since Kevin Willis did so during the 1991-92 season. With his 31-point/31-rebound performance in a win over New York on Nov. 12, Love became just the 19th player in NBA history to post a 30/30 game—and the first since Moses Malone in 1982.
And all this from a guy who wasn’t even a starter for most of last season. As you all know, Love didn’t just stuff the traditional per game box score stats either. His PER is up from 20.7 in ’09/’10 to 24.3 this year. He grabbed 23.6% of all available rebounds, up from 21.5% last year. Most impressively, his true shooting percentage jumped from .549 to .593 this season. So he Improved a lot.
As if that weren’t enough, according to Dave Berri and the Wages of Wins, Love actually led the league in Wins Produced this year, the irony of which is hilarious if you think about it for a second. Love’s story is easily the happiest aspect of an unhappy season. But with the Wolves every silver lining has its cloud. And here it is: nobody knows what the next CBA will bring, but it seems almost certain that in order to keep Love, by far the team’s best and most popular player since KG, in the fold, they’ll have to offer him a max extension in the next year.
And that would be tough, because the Wolves would then have a max contract on the books and would still be lacking both a true first-option scorer and an elite NBA defender. Love’s award and his impending plunge into stardom beg some of the game’s most fascinating current questions. Just how valuable to a team is one individual’s rebounding? Is it wise to pay so dearly for a player who is not a true scorer (not to denigrate Love’s shooting proficiency, his ability to get to the line, or his much improved post game)? Is it possible to build an NBA-caliber defense around a sub-mediocre defender?