The Best Power Forward in Basketball?
Even at just 23 years old, Minnesota Timberwolves’ forward Kevin Love is making his case for best power forward in the NBA.
Through the first 18 games of the 2011-2012 season, Love has done nothing but cement his reputation as a double-double machine, while also improving his game on the offensive end.
In 18 games to start the year, Love has 17 double-doubles and is second in the NBA in rebounds per game (13.7) and fourth in scoring (25.3 per contest). Both of these numbers are the best in the business among power forwards and, watching him play, one could make the case that Love is the best power forward in the game today.
“I think he can be one of the best power forwards, for sure,” Timberwolves’ head coach Rick Adelman said. “Right now he’s up there. It’s a tough combination when you have a rebounder like that and a guy who can step out and shoot the ball. The more people we get around him, the more opportunities he’s going to have.”
Last night, against the reigning NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, Love ruined the Mavs’ championship ring ceremony by dropping 31 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and accumulating two blocks and two steals in the Wolves’ 105-90 victory. This broke the Mavericks’ franchise-record 15 game streak of holding opponents under 100 points and Dallas’ head coach Rick Carlisle heaped some praise on Love even before the beat down.
“He’s quickly becoming a household name,” Carlisle said. “He’s also quickly becoming a guy that you put in that category of guys you call great because, not only is it the stats, but it’s every single night he’s going after it. He’s a guy people would pay money to see.”
One key factor in Love’s improvement was his strong will over the summer to not only stay in shape but to shed some weight.
In the elongated offseason due to the lockout, Love concentrated on getting himself into better shape. From regular basketball workouts to even yoga, the T-Wolves’ big man put together a regimen that he believes helped him progress dramatically coming into the year.
“Really it wasn’t that I put a number on saying, ‘I want to lose x amount of pounds, x amount of body fat,’” Love said. “Just being a consummate professional throughout the offseason: getting my sleep, eating right, having the proper habits, working out – doing my yoga, doing my strength and conditioning and doing my basketball workouts – throughout that whole process and just having the extra time.”
Those extra few months have led to a leaner and stronger Love that has come out of the gate quickly, and he looks to improve his game even more by season’s end.
“I just took that time to get better and focus on what in my game needed to improve and my body as well,” Love said. “That extra time was beneficial in the end.”
With the subsequent improvement in play comes expectations and comparisons to some of the best in the game, including former regular season MVP and reigning Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki. What’s surprising is that this evaluation didn’t come from his coach or teammates, but rather Nowitzki’s coach.
“There will be comparisons to Dirk because he’s become a great shooter,” Carlisle said. “Normally the guys that go after all the rebounds aren’t the guys spotted at the 3-point line. That’s one of the things that makes [Love] truly remarkable. He’s averaging [nearly] 15 rebounds a game and he’s getting several of them running in from the 3-point line and kicking someone’s ass to get the ball.
“That takes a lot of desire, tenacity – you’ve got to be wired a certain way to do that. Then now he’s shooting the 3 at [over] 40 percent and made more 3’s than [Kevin]Durant or [Kobe]Bryant.”
Love’s own head coach had his own thoughts on the assessment.
“I think it’s going to be, you can compare them because they both can shoot the heck out of the ball,” Adelman said. “Dirk though, as he went on in his career, obviously developed where he was a tough cover and he made big shots down the stretch. He got to a point where he knew what he was going to do and that’s why I say Kevin’s got to do that. Kevin’s probably a better rebounder than Dirk today than Dirk was, but Dirk certainly just had that knack to get his shot off and he got the shot he wanted all the time.
“That’s where [if Love's] growth’s going to come, is going to come in that area.”
In the locker room after last night’s win against those Mavericks, Love was taken aback and honored that he was put in the same category as Nowitzki.
“It’s very humbling,” Love said of Carlisle’s comparison. “It’s great to have a guy that sets the standard in Dirk and the guy that sets the standard for coaches as well who’s right up there in the upper-echelon, top-tier coaches in the league say that about you. But for me I just want to continue to keep working. I’m 23 and I just want to continue to get better. There are still some holes in my game that I want to get better at.”
With an attitude like that, it appears as though Love is only going to continue to grow in this league and, as young as he is, it looks like he and other young forwards like Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge will be vying for the title of best power forward in the league for years to come.
A freshly signed four-year, $62 million contract extension from Minnesota suggests the Timberwolves’ would agree with that statement.
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