LeBron James is the MVP so far this year. Unless someone has some fantastical, incredible, ridiculous final 20 games of the season, there does not seem to be a point in arguing who else should get it.
This is an argument for second place, and one of the (perhaps) surprise names competing for that spot in the NBA’s most prestigious pecking order.
The usual names are certainly in that competition — last year’s MVP Derrick Rose, perennial candidates Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul. They will probably get a bulk of votes because of their larger body of work in their career.
Who will be the newest name to the list? Why not Minnesota’s Kevin Love?
Love has put to rest just about any doubt anyone had about his game this season in averaging 25.5 points per game and 13.7 rebounds per game. Even though his total rebound rate is below 20 percent for the first time in his career (at 19.0 percent), Love has expanded hsi game immensely. He has become a complete player and arguably the best power forward in the league.
Not only that, he has his Timberwolves surprisingly in position to make the Playoffs for the first time since Kevin Garnett was traded.
“They said I wouldn’t have success in the league,” Love told Jon Krawczyinski of the Associated Press. “They also said I wouldn’t be able to shoot. They also said I wouldn’t be able to score down low, get to the line, this, that or the other,” Love said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes and I’m going to keep continuing to prove people wrong my whole career.”
Love has spent a whole chunk of his career proving everyone wrong. He had to fight for playing time under the failed Randy Wittman and Kevin McHale coaching tandem his rookie year and then had to fight through the haphazard and misplaced coaching tenure of Kurt Rambis.
Finally freed under the more free-wheeling offense of Rick Adelman, Love has complemented his strong rebounding and underrated post play with amazing accuracy from beyond the arc for a player of his skill. Nobody had him winning the 3-point shootout at All-Star Weekend, that much was for sure.
As teammate Martell Webster put it, Love is putting up “2K numbers” right now.
And, for sure, the Wolves are not shocking the league and making their run at the postseason without Love. Love has completely transformed his game to reach that elite level and put his team in such a strong position.
So the question becomes: will he be on the MVP ballot? Is he even in the conversation?
As his coach says, his statistics certainly should put him in the conversation. He is already an All Star and probably should have been starting in the game over Blake Griffin (silly fans).
From a leadership standpoint, he is willing his team to victories as his 42-point, 10-rebound effort over Portland in Minnesota’s last game should have proved. While he is running with Ricky Rubio (and that has been a big part of Minnesota’s transformation), Love’s ability to spread the floor from both the 3-point line and in the post has helped ease Rubio into the league. Love also has proven himself to be an improving defender.
Again, the Timberwolves are not where they are at without Love putting in this gargantuan effort.
Being the eighth seed in the West is not going to be enough to get Love into the top five. He is not a guard either and does not put up the highlight plays that sneak these type of players into the voting. Love is still the kind of player who does his work without any glitz or glamor. The fact Minnesota is not on TV a lot does not help either.
In ESPN’s NBA MVP rankings (done partially by the fans), Love comes in sixth. He is getting his notice and recognition it seems. And Love is slowly climbing the MVP ladder.
Will he get there this year? Not likely. A top five finish though would be something for Love.