The only way to describe Kevin Love's number is by using the word "gaudy." In 2010-11, stunning his first season as a full-time starter, the young forward racked up 20 points and 15 rebounds per game. He was the first to do it since Moses Malone in 1983. Last season, Ricky Rubio and a decent coach, Rick Adelman, arrived to really shake things up in Minnesota. Love took on more of a scoring role and finished the season averaging 26 points and 13 rebounds per game. The last player to do that: Shaq, in 2000.
These are not insignificant comparisons, especially for a power forward tagged with the unholy trinity of "undersized, unathletic and fat" in the draft process. Love's production earned him an All-NBA berth last season, and almost assuredly has gotten him a spot on the USA Basketball headed to London in July for the 2012 Olympics. He's the most productive big man in the NBA right now, and given Dwight Howard's recent back surgery, he could end up being Team USA's most important big man in Britain.
The power within Kevin Love is the power to find the ball, grab the ball and then score the ball. Consider that he had his 20-point season with just about zero help from the backcourt; he boosted that to 26 last season as Adelman moved him further away from the basket (more on that shortly) and Rubio became the Timberwolves' first good, healthy passer since Sam Cassell. Love took more than five three-pointers per game as a power forward -- an incredible amount -- and hit 37 percent of them. He won the Foot Locker 3-Point Shootout at All-Star Weekend in Orlando. And, as mentioned, he averaged 13 rebounds per game.
There's no one in the NBA quite like Love, but his sheer brilliance has forced us to create a cottage industry finding the next Love. It's no wonder that Ryan Anderson, a fair mimic despite being a few months older, won Most Improved Player the season after Love did! Love's success has become a touchpoint in Jared Sullinger's candidacy, and Kurt Rambis may never work again after keeping Love strapped to the bench in 2009-10.
Love didn't actually play much in Turkey in 2010 -- coach Mike Krzyzewski played plenty of smallball, and Lamar Odom actually led the team in rebounding (7.7 per game). Love has since exploded in the NBA, and the statuses of Howard and Chris Bosh -- the top U.S. big men in 2008 -- are not great. Bosh could play, but nursed an injury through the playoffs, missing the bulk of two series. Howard's out. Tyson Chandler will have a spot, but Love might be the No. 2 natural big man, and USA Basketball's clear best big man scorer. Coach K would be foolish to leave him home.
But even if Coach K thinks that he's set without Love, the power within Kevin always -- always -- makes you regret sleeping on him. Ask Rambis. Ask the team that skipped him for Michael Beasley, or the team that traded him for O.J. Mayo.
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