Charles Barkley recently called Kevin Love on InsideTheNBA, “the best power forward in the world.” That is large praise from a large man, although less large since he joined WeightWatchers. It is possible to take it a step further: Kevin Love should win Most Valuable Player this year, but he won’t.
Love worked on his body this summer, and it shows. He looks strong and healthy this year, and can use his body in the paint more effectively than ever after playing volleyball all summer. He looks bouncy, tan, and dangerous; he has probably never been in better physical shape in his life. He reportedly lost 25 pounds, and it will serve him well in this lockout shortened year; he has not looked winded in any game this year and somehow he is averaging 39.9 minutes a game(#1 in the league). That is more minutes than at any point of his career and it will serve him well statistically.
Love also wins MVP points for fan accessibility. He recently offered to pay for any Wolves fan’s ticket to the Detroit game if they bought a ticket to the Kings game. Granted this is a much more sentimental argument than a fact-based won, but it doesn’t hurt to point out that Love is doing every single thing that he can do to win basketball games. He’ll rebound, score down low, shoot the 3, buy your ticket to the Detroit game, sweep the floor, and all the while he’ll be smiling at Ricky Rubio: his new favorite player.
Rubio is the second reason Love should win MVP. Rubio has reinvigorated Love’s enthusiasm for basketball; Love obviously played well last year, but if not for Rubio there is not a guarantee that Love would have stayed in Minnesota beyond his rookie contract. There were certain press conferences last year where Love sounded morosely disappointed in what his teammates brought to the table, but Love wouldn’t dream of leaving now. Rubio is actually the main reason Love should win MVP, because Rubio has fully unleashed Love’s potential. Any idea what Kevin Love is averaging since Rubio became full-time starter? 29.2 points and 14 rebounds a game. If he averages anywhere near that the rest of the season and the T-Wolves finish in the top 5 in the West it will be hard to deny Love. And if he doesn’t win MVP in that scenario it means LeBron or Kobe somehow scored more than 30 a game and also scored with efficiency higher than 50 percent. LeBron is an outside shot to manage this, but very unlikely.
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Rebounding is another main reason Love should win Most Valuable Player. Not a lot of explanation is needed for that one. Kevin Love has out-rebounded the entire opposing team many times in his career. During a blowout win against the Hornets, Love grabbed a garbage time rebound and Rubio ran over to him laughing, seeming to say, do you have to get EVERY rebound? Kevin does. He doesn’t even think about it anymore; he chases the ball down. He has a double-double in 14 straight games this year, and it should not be understated how impressive that is. It has only been done by 4 players in NBA history: Kareem, Hakeem, Moses, and Walton. That is not bad company.
The team’s record might be the biggest obstacle to Love’s MVP case, despite the fact I believe the Wolves will eventually finish top-five in the West. There hasn’t been an MVP on a losing team since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1976, so the Wolves winning many more games is key. Minnesota is currently at 6 wins and 8 losses, but it is incredibly deceptive. The Wolves have played the Heat, Thunder, Bucks, and Bulls very close early and their largest loss of the season is by 11. They have competed in every single game this year; you could not have said that last year, and it bodes well, because point differential is a better barometer of what a team will do over time than a team’s current record. The Wolves are the highest rated team in John Hollinger’s ESPN ranking system with a losing record. Their current record also doesn’t take into account the fact that Ricky Rubio is now the starter, and that makes a world of difference.
Kevin is also fifth in the league in scoring right now. Yes, that’s right; the league’s best rebounder has become the league’s fifth-best offensive threat. He is actually a better version of Dirk: one who rebounds! He also happens to score efficiently. Love buried the Hornets on January 13th by only missing one free throw the entire night and the one that he missed was in garbage time. Love did his best version of Dirk Nowitzki, shooting the ball at a high percentage from 3 and the free throw line. Efficiency is an underrated part of Love’s game, but it is one of the most important aspects of it.
This article doesn’t imply that Love will win the MVP this year, because the Wolves are still not on many sportswriter’s radar; it suggests that Love, the best power forward in the league, is more valuable to his team than any of the other “favorites” are. The real scary part? He is only 23 and will only get better. He won’t win MVP this year, because the media members who vote have too narrow an opinion of what an MVP is, but Kevin Love should win MVP this year. And one day, he will.
Dave Daniels is also a blog contributor for Gold Star Games, a leading tailgating games supplier.