There has been a lot of debate about who is the “best” power forward in the NBA. Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge get a lot of the press. Griffin gets his attention because of his high-flying dunks, but he doesn’t have much more than that. His free-throw shooting is poor (55.4%) and there is not much else to his game. He has no mid-range game and his post-up game is not polished for a guy who, technically, is in his third season. On the other hand, Aldridge became an All-Star for the first time in his career. Aldridge had a great season in 2011, but his numbers are even better this season. He is shooting the highest field-goal percentage of his career (50.6%), ppg (21.9), and apg (2.7).
But there is one power forward who towers over them all. Kevin Love.
Love came into the NBA as a big-bodied, white guy with no athleticism and real skill, except that he can rebound. He didn’t get much tick in his rookie season (25 mpg), but he managed to average 11 and 9, while starting 37 games for a terrible Minnesota Timberwolves team. He missed 22 games in his second season due to injury. He finished the season averaging 14 and 11. In his third season, I saw, and the NBA saw, Love’s career take off. From expanding his range on his jump shot to breaking Moses Malone’s double-double streak to leading the league in rebounding, Love had a season for the ages. He average 20 and 15, was named to the All-Star team for the first time in his short career and was named Most Improved Player.
People didn’t think his numbers meant anything because his team wasn’t winning. The latter part of that was true, but his numbers meant something. His numbers said that he was here to stay.
Love has done nothing but give 100% effort every time he is out on the floor this season. People didn’t think he could get better, but he has proved them wrong. While the majority of his numbers are down, his scoring is up five points per game and his team has already won three more games than they had all of last season. The addition of Ricky Rubio and Rick Adelman have something to do with that too, but Love has transformed his game into an inspiring brand of basketball showing that hard work really does pay off.
It all started when he lost 20 pounds in the off-season. He came into camp in-shape, focused, and ready-to-go. People said he couldn’t be a go-to player in crunch time. This season, he hit a game-winning three pointer in Los Angeles against the Clippers and against the Philadelphia 76ers, he drew a foul with .7 seconds left, making both free-throws to win the game. Last night against the Clippers, Love scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, two big buckets with inside two minutes to propel Minnesota to victory. With all the work he has put in, it is starting to pay off. His team is above .500 (20-19) and the Timberwolves have beaten teams such as the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, 76ers, Clippers, and Houston Rockets.
For the first time in years, Love has Minnesota in playoff contention. They are a game and a half out of the eighth and last spot in the playoff picture. To give you a picture of how great Love has been this season, here are his power forward and league ranks in important statistical categories:
Power Forward League
PPG: 25.4 1st 4th
RPG: 13.7 2nd 2nd
FT-A: 308 1st 3rd
FT-M: 257 1st 1st
FT-AG: 8.5 1st 3rd
FT-MG: 7.1 1st 1st
FT %: 83.4% 5th 34th
PTS-PER-Shot: 1.37 1st 9th
PER: 24.96 1st 6th
3-PT-M: 60 3rd 23rd
3-PT %: 36.1 5th 72nd