Through six games this season, Kevin Love has reminded all of us why he is one of the best power forwards in the game today, if not the best. His combination of rebounding, shooting and passing has been at historic levels through the first week and a half, as you’ll see. Watch as he channels old Bullets center-forward Wes Unseld with number of excellent outlet passes against Dallas last night.
Listen, we could ramble on about Love’s offensive maturation since coming out of UCLA in the summer of 2008. He lost a lot of weight without sacrificing his rebounding strength with a nose for the ball when it takes flight on the way to the rim. Love also turned into a first-rate shooter and stretch four that cannot be left alone outside the arc. But perhaps more than all of that, is Love’s love for the outlet pass; that oft-forgotten skill that can be the difference between walking the ball up, or getting a solid look in mini-transition.
Before coming out of UCLA, we recall reading a tiny piece about Love with Sports Illustrated‘s Lee Jenkins where Love talked about his love for watching tape of Unseld, who Love’s father, Stan, played with from 1971 to ’73 with the Washington Bullets.
Love’s full name is Kevin Wesley Love in commemoration of Unseld, and never is this more apparent than when Kevin wrestles down a rebound, and instead of holding on to the ball, immediately turns up the floor to whip a chest pass the length of the court for the transition bucket.
“I’ve studied what he did, and I’ve shown my teammates the tapes,” Love told Jenkins back in 2007. “They know that when I get the ball on our end, or if it looks like I might get a rebound, someone’s got to go down the court.”
That same mentality has translated to the pros even as Love has turned into an All-NBA All-Star at the power forward position, capable of lighting it up from outside or in the murky confines of the paint. But it’s the outlet passes that lends a studied nuance to Love’s all-around abilities. Like the one he perfectly tossed to a striding Corey Brewer last night during Minnesota’s 116-108 victory over the Mavs.
It takes incredible timing and accuracy to throw that pass. Did you see how Love waited a half beat before making the chest pass? It was so Brewer was in the perfect position to catch it on the run â€” like a WR going over the middle on a slant route â€” and, without breaking stride taking one dribble before flushing it.
We get a tingly sensation on our necks when we see this live. Here are some more outlets from Love last night, plus a few pocket passes to cutters across the paint. Love can dish the ball with the best of them.
Before we bore you even more by waxing poetic over Love’s outlet passing, check out this tweet from Elias Sports about his first six games of the season:
From @EliasSports: Kevin Love is the 1st player in NBA history to average at least 27 PPG, 14 RPG, 5 APG through a team's 1st 6 games.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 9, 2013
Love has the league’s second highest PER, behind only Anthony Davis, and he’s shooting better than 47 percent from the floor and a respectable 31.6 from three-land (that should rise as the season progresses, too). Not only that, but he’s leading the league in rebounds with 14.7 per game, while grabbing a mind-numbing 45.5 percent of contested boards, per SportVU cameras.
We don’t think Kevin Love is a darkhorse candidate for MVP this season, he’s an MVP candidate without the qualifier.
What do you think of Love’s play so far this season?
Follow Spencer on Twitter at @countcenci.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.