The consensus regarding who is considered “great” and who is not in the National Basketball Association (NBA) can be influenced with one well-produced highlight package on SportsCenter. I truly believe we sometimes get too caught up with stats, and don’t focus enough on production (those two things are not mutually exclusive of course). The voting for this game is always negotiable (Kobe hasn’t played 10 games this year and he has been voted a starter) since the fans have the final vote, but usually the most deserving players end up starting as they should.
I’m not a big fan of Howard but he has Love beat in at least one category: WINNING. Except for his first two NBA seasons, Howard’s teams have made the playoffs. Even last year’s nightmare season in Los Angeles (Lakers) ended up with a playoff berth. Conversely, Love has never won on the professional level… ever. I don’t want to make this a Howard vs. Love debate, so let’s expand the argument a bit.
1992-93 Charles Barkley – 25.6 ppg., 5.1 apg., 12. 2 rpg., 52% FG, 77% FT, 31% 3-PT
2013-14 Kevin Love – 24.8 ppg., 4.2 apg., 13.p rpg., 46% FG, 81% FT, 38% 3-PT
Love is averaging similar numbers to Charles Barkley’s MVP season in 1993. Again, Love is averaging MVP-type numbers yet if the season ended today his team would not be in the playoffs! How can that be? The easiest thing a Love supporter could point to would be his supporting cast might not be good enough. I don’t believe that. Center Nikola Pekovic is averaging 18 points and 9 rebounds per game, Kevin Martin is chipping in nearly 20 more points per game (and 40% 3-PT shooting), and the team still has mini-phenom Ricky Rubio (who can’t shoot, but has superior passing skills). Besides, in 2009 Dwayne Wade carried a JV High School team to the 4th seed in the East and gave the Boston Celtics all they could handle. That’s what superstars do.
Look at LaMarcus Aldridge. His averages are similar to Love’s, yet his team is winning. Even 35 year-old Dirk Nowitzki has his Mavericks in the 8th spot in the West, without having nearly the stats or supporting cast (in my opinion) that Love does.
As I write this post, the Timberwolves are 21-22, which is nothing to be ashamed of in a tough Western Conference, but that is not a record befitting a player that many consider to be one of the five or six best in the league. Who’s to blame for the record? Do you point to his coach Rick Adelman? He’s coached great teams and players in Portland (two finals appearances), Houston and Sacramento and I think he’s solid. If it’s not the coach, then it has to be the best player. Who is Love really? Is he the modern-day Shareef Abdur-Rahim (all stats no wins)? The NBA’s version of what Alex Rodriguez used to be (all stats no wins)?
What if he scored a little less, upped his shooting percentage to something over 50%, and grabbed a couple less rebounds? Would they win more games then? Watching LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan and every Indiana Pacer routinely make hockey assists to teammates in search of the best shot possible, leads me to believe that selflessness and a team attitude can bode well for those players who want to win more games. Of course, I can’t definitively say Love isn’t a team guy, but I do have NBA League Pass and I have seen him have monster 30-10, 20-15, and 45-19 (points and rebounds) games in blowout losses… and that’s just been this year!