Every year when the annual ESPN NBA player rankings are released, Twitter lights up with every random Joe Shmoe who believes that he is the world’s utmost authority on what makes an elite NBA player. What these people fail to realize is that if they eliminate their personal bias and stop using the player ratings on NBA 2K13, they really have no idea what they’re talking about.
Based on my own research, the fact that I live, breathe, and eat the NBA, and a touch of my own personal arrogance, I feel that I have the authority to comment on the legitimacy of these rankings. Also, this column is my platform for speaking my sports-loving mind. Therefore, I will proceed to make my point.
Let’s be real; we really only care about the Top-25 or so players on this list. I mean, I’m fairly certain that no one is crying over their preferred source of social media about the fact that Shan Foster is number 498 on the list. If you are, please Google underwater basket weaving and find a new hobby.
For the most part, every year, ESPN gets it right. Even though I have a personal, deep-seeded hatred for LeBron James, I will readily acknowledge that statistically and physically he is one of the best players in the league. As are Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Love, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, and rounding out the top 10, Deron Williams.
After a spirited debate on a Facebook status about these rankings regarding Kevin Love and Dwyane Wade, numbers 7 and 8 respectively, I honestly couldn’t understand why someone would believe that today, Dwyane Wade is a better overall player than Kevin Love.
I have a lot of platonic love for Kevin Love, as I personally believe that he’s one of the elite players in the NBA today. Love embodies everything that an outstanding power forward should, and is even able to do things better than others around him.
Let’s start the “Love Kevin Love” conversation with something that every elite power forward should be able to do, which many current power forwards don’t seem to do anymore — rebound. For his career to date — four seasons — Kevin Love has averaged 12.0 Rebounds Per Game, with a career high of 15.2 RPG during the 2010-2011 season, in which he started every game that he played. In a game against the Knicks, he brought down 31 boards. Just try to picture that stat line. For his career, Amar’e Stoudemire has only averaged 8.8 RPG. Kevin Love is a guy who doesn’t mind doing the dirty work when he has to, which is something that super stars should be able to do.
Additionally, Kevin Love has offensive abilities that fulfill a wide spectrum of positions, from shooting guard to center. If you look at his game on offense, he is fundamentally sound and has a range of shots that span the entire floor. Not only does he have the ability to play in the low post, he can get you an offensive rebound for a put back, he has a mid-range jump shot, a long range jump shot, and oh ya, he can shoot threes alongside the best sharp shooters in the league. Let’s keep in mind here that he plays power forward, and he has offensive skills like this. If you want some evidence, he just so happens to be the 2012 Three-Point Shootout Champion. I’ll give you a moment to internalize that. All right, that’s long enough. Think about that. It wasn’t Ray Allen, or Kevin Durant, or Mike Miller, or Kyle Korver. No, the top three-point shooter last season was Kevin Love.
Kevin Love is also one of the hardest-working individuals in the NBA today. When he entered the league four years ago, his offensive abilities were limited to the low post, with a shot that he was unable to get off against more athletic defenders. His mid-range and beyond game was nonexistent. While adjusting to the NBA game, he’s been able to tremendously improve the range from which he can attack you offensively. To improve his athleticism and get into better shape, Love dropped 15 pounds during the off-season before the 2011-2012 season, allowing him to take on the heaviest of minutes in what was a nonstop year after the short lockout.
I suppose some of his appeal is lost on the fact that he is not, by any means, a flashy player. Honestly, his highlight reel is not going to feature gravity-defying dunks or wild, seemingly impossible Kobe Bryant-esque shots. When it comes to the wow factor, Kevin Love is definitely not the most exciting guy to watch on the court. However, this does not change the fact that last season, not only did he establish his athleticism, but he was also able to score the best the NBA has to offer, while rebounding with the likes of Dwight Howard. Kevin Love plays with sound fundamentals and, more importantly, efficiency.
Plain and simple, Kevin Love deserves to be the 7th best player in the NBA today, bar none. If you don’t agree, then clearly you do not watch enough basketball, or maybe your personal bias is clouding your thought process. If you look at both the tangibles and intangibles of what makes a player great, Kevin Love fits in where he is, ahead of the 493 guys behind him, and behind the 6 players ahead of him.
Come on now; why not show Kevin a little love?