Kevin Love is widely regarded as a star. He is a two-time All Star, all-NBA second team representative, three-point shootout winner and member of US Olympic and World Championship gold-medal winning teams. Those facts are indisputable.
Statistically he has taken his game to a whole other level this season, averaging career highs in points (25.5), rebounds (13.3), assists (3.4) and field goal percentage (0.458).
Given this outstanding statistical evidence, many argue he has a valid claim to be in the MVP discussion with uber-stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
To dig deeper into a number of efficiency and advanced statistics makes a number of arguments for and against his MVP claims with more positives than negatives.
His player efficiency rating (PER) of 27.84 puts him fourth in the league behind Durant, James and Chris Paul.
The pros and cons of the PER have the potential to make this a flawed measure of efficiency, but it is widely agreed that it is a valid and accurate measure of offensive performance.
Offensive win shares (OWS) are a measure that estimate the number of wins a player produces on offensive possessions, and like most individual categories this is one in which Love excels, ranking third in the NBA at 5.37.
Defensive win shares (DWS) are an estimate of the number of wins a player produces on defensive possessions. Love ranks 22nd in the league with a rating of 1.79.
Win shares (WS) are an estimate of the total number of wins a player produces, and again Love ranks third with a rating of 7.16.
Offensive rating (ORtg) measures the number of points a player produces per 100 possessions, and Love ranks 17th in the league at 121.2.
Defensive rating (DRtg) measures the number of points a player allows per 100 possessions, and in this category Love ranks 299th at 102.5.
While this seems to be a woeful ranking, it should be noted that both Durant and Paul rank below love for DRtg.
In relation to efficiency differential (eDiff) which is the difference between a team or player’s ORtg and DRtg, Love ranks ninth with a rating of 18.7.
Love’s true shooting percentage of 0.588 ranks him 49th in the league; to compare, James is fourth at 0.672 and Durant 13th at 0.627.
These statistics support Love being a far better than average player, but do they provide enough evidence of him being an MVP candidate?
Individual stats and offensive brilliance aside, one cannot overlook Love shortcomings at the defensive end where he guards space and spends more time gesturing towards and verbally chastising teammates for missing rotations than defending a man himself.
In addition, his attempts at motivating teammates by being a vocal leader through the media have come across as misunderstood and poorly delivered.
Case in point – in a recent loss to Phoenix in which he shot 4/20 from the field, Love chose to criticise bench players thought to be J.J.Barea and Dante Cunningham for not being vocal supporters, but rather pouting for being benched.
A better leader would have accepted blame for an unacceptable loss on his home floor to a team not far from Minnesota in the standings and missing arguably its best player.
Perhaps the most damning statistic and the one which cripples Love’s MVP claims is that Minnesota are 0-10 in games decided by four points or less.
A franchise player and one with claims as an MVP candidate should not allow his team to be that poor down the stretch in close games, especially as three of these losses are to teams below 0.500.
In contrast to their woeful record in close games, the Timberwolves have won eight games by 20-plus points, which is an amazing stat for a team with an 18-19 record.
This indicates that Minnesota feast on blowing out bad teams but struggle as the quality of their opponent increases.
This observation is supported by the fact that they have a 4-15 record against teams with a record over 0.500.
Breaking down the individual and team statistics leads to one conclusion – the 2013-14 version of Kevin Love puts up some amazing offensive numbers, but they are largely empty stats that are not helping a mediocre team.
Kevin Love should definitely not be mentioned MVP discussions.