Sure, we are just six games in and there is a ton of basketball left to be played. Nonetheless, Kevin Love has gotten off to a brilliant and historic start to the NBA season. After missing much of last season with various hand injuries and getting his knee operated on in the offseason, Love has not only returned to MVP candidate form, but has still managed to grow further as a player this season. Again, it’s just six games, but I don’t care since what he has done in those games has been that impressive.
Rick Adelman had two areas of improvement for Love this offseason: improving as a facilitator and a leader. Certainly, Love has improved on the former. We are all aware of Love’s ability for outlet passes that stretch the length of the court, but he has done so much more than that in the half court game. In doing so Love has four consecutive games with five or more assists for the first time in his career, but as the league’s second leading scorer and leading rebounder, he has not had to sacrifice his gaudy production in those areas. There have been times where Love needs to understand what is a good pass and a bad pass — like passing out of single coverage in the post to Corey Brewer or Ricky Rubio open at the three point line is not a better shot opportunity than single coverage on Love inside — but he has shown that his passing skills are not limited to full-court passes.
With his increased passing skills, Love became the fourth player in NBA history to post a 30 point, 15 rebound and five-plus assist game; joining Larry Bird, Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter in that exclusive club. Digging deeper, the last player to post three 30-15 games in the first six games of the season was Hakeem Olajuwon to start the 1988-’89 season. In just his sixth season, Love has now had his name next to several NBA greats already like Moses Malone and now Bird and Hakeem.
And then there is this from Timberwolves PR: Kevin Love is the first player ever to average 27-14-5 through a team’s first six games. Likewise, he is the only player in history to average 160 points, 80 rebounds and 30 assists in that same time. What we had seen from Love was impressive enough, but this is really some next level production as he has not only made himself better, but the team as well.
With Love missing 64 games last season it’s easy to forget just how great he was. However, it helps when a player like himself returns to the level that we have seen so far. Will these numbers hold? We have no idea, but as we’ve learned through things like Love’s double-double streaks and past production, he is capable of surprising us. Whether it’s been adding a three point shot or getting into better physical shape, Love has expanded his game just about each year in the league, so who knows just how much more he can grow. It seems hard to believe that he is also just 25 years old with likely 10 years of career left to be played. In these next years we will find out what Love’s limitations end up being, but in the mean time he could still improve as a defender and a leader– two things that would only cement his status as one of the best players in the NBA today.