The Minnesota Timberwolves lost Ricky Rubio a few weeks ago and, with him, any real hopes of winning a playoff series this season. Budding star Nikola Pekovic is hampered with bone spurs in his ankle, and depending on the team’s success, he might be shelved for the rest of the year.
Kevin Love, who won the NBA‘s Most Improved Player last season, might actually be in line to win it a second consecutive time. Since the award’s inception in 1985-86, no player has ever won it twice, let alone in consecutive seasons.
When Love first won the award, he improved his scoring from 14 points per game to 20, and improved his rebounding from 11 per game to just over 15. This season, he is averaging over 26 points, just under 14 rebounds, two assists and a block per contest.
The biggest statistic for Love is the wins and losses. In this lockout-shortened season, Love has the Wolves at 22 wins. Last season they only managed 17 wins in a full season.
Love is taking ball games over this season. There is not a defender in the league who can contain him.
In the month of March, when wins matter most, Love is averaging 31 points and 14 rebounds per game. In a double-overtime thriller against the best in the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Love poured in a franchise-record 51 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.
When the Wolves need a big basket, or several, Love has stepped up. I know the MVP is almost exclusively from a winning team, but isn’t the true spirit of the award to reward the player who is most valuable to his team while exhibiting an elite level of personal excellence?
Never has the award been given to a player on a losing team. The Wolves still might end up with a winning record and may even sneak into the playoffs, but will that be enough to give Love any serious MVP consideration? It probably won’t, but it should.
No other player in the league is capable of dominating a game like love can. He is maybe the best rebounder in the game, and can go for 30 points and 20 boards on any given night. After Love trounced his Denver Nuggets on Sunday afternoon, Nuggets coach George Karl had some thoughts.
“I think we used to call him kind of a poor man’s Larry Bird,” Karl said. “I think you can take ‘poor man’s’ off that comparison now. His ability to rebound is incredible and his offensive tools and skills are growing.”
He is right on point. Love looks like he can do whatever he wants on the basketball court. He made himself into a dominant three-point shooter over the offseason and will most likely improve another aspect of his game this coming offseason.
How good this kid can be is mind blowing. It is tough to remember sometimes that he is just 23 years old.
Timberwolves’ fans must have thought they were spoiled by having Kevin Garnett‘s talents here for so long—now they must be rejoicing at their future. Love is on pace to make several runs at MVP awards over his career, and the Timberwolves will only improve around him. Rubio will be back next season, Derrick Williams will be one year seasoned, and maybe Wes Johnson will keep improving.
Love might be overlooked in the MVP discussions this year, but I would expect him to be a serious candidate as soon as next season.
It almost goes without saying, but he is a favorite to be the league’s most improved player again. His stats along with his team’s success this year show how much better he is from last season’s version.
You have a lot to look forward to, Minnesota fans. Enjoy the ride—I have a feeling it’s going to get a whole lot better in the next decade.