Kevin Love Is The Dark Horse NBA MVP Candidate To Watch

“If they pass on him, Kevin Love will not make it to you at your pick. I’m sorry.”

Those were the words my friend uttered to me minutes before our fantasy draft in which he held the fourth pick and I the fifth.

Curses to you random fantasy draft order. Curses.

Sure enough, said friend was able to get Love with the fourth pick and thus is enjoying one of the best players in the league on his roster. Meanwhile, I pine over the Minnesota Timberwolves box scores “Draking” over what could have been.

Self-loathing anecdote aside, the reality of the situation is that Love isn’t just the awkward man-crush of fantasy owners. He is a superstar worthy of more attention from mainstream fans. He is probably one playoff appearance away from becoming a household name.

Using the familiar “if you were starting a franchise today” mantra, Love wouldn’t be too far down on most general manager’s lists. After LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the pickings become a matter of preference without clarity or any discernible face. Derrick Rose, James Harden, Chris Paul, Paul George and Love would be among the names on the short list.

The former UCLA standout hasn’t been able to maintain his health over the last three seasons and that more than anything else has stunted the Timberwolves’ hopes of earning a playoff spot. Last year’s T-Wolves could have pushed for a lower seed in the Western Conference but Love, along with a laundry list of teammates, all missed significant time with various ailments. Had Love remained healthy and put his team in the playoffs, the deserved spotlight might already be shining brightly on the game’s best power forward.

Luckily there is still plenty of time for folks to get on the Love bandwagon. He is only 25 years old and has opened up this season on a tear that garnered him Western Conference Player of the Week honors. The fact that he’s a stretch four that can still play inside and rebound at the rate he does is truly remarkable. The guy has never had a total rebounding percentage of less than 19 percent and averages 12.2 boards for his career. He seems to have become a better passer in the early part of this season, which was the only offensive thing he didn’t do well. (That’s surprising when you consider his history.)

The only true knock on his game (and it is a valid one) is from a defensive standpoint. Despite being able to play on the perimeter offensively, he still lacks the lateral quickness to guard other stretch fours. In the post, he is physical at times but doesn’t have good timing when trying to change shots. He needs to improve on his help defense as well. That said, if he can make marginal strides on defense this year and lead his team into the playoffs, he could potentially be a dark horse candidate for the MVP.

No really. Remember Steve Nash won back-to-back MVPs without playing a lick of defense.

Certain scenarios have to play out perfectly and Love would have to have a career season, which he seems poised to have. The media tends to get tired of voting the exact same way every year so if there was ever a chance to unseat LeBron as the MVP, this would probably be the year. Say the Heat coast through the season and finish second or third in the Eastern Conference and Kevin Durant’s Thunder slip in the loaded West. That would leave the door open for Love to steal some votes if he can lead Minnesota into the playoffs at a fifth or sixth seed. (Chris Paul would also need to chill out some, too, after a blazing start.)

It’s a tall order but if Love finishes in the top five in both scoring and rebounding as he did in 2011-2012 and adds the caveat of getting Minnesota into the playoffs, people have to take notice. The T-Wolves have five national television appearances on ESPN this year so that exposure should help. I know it’s early to be talking crazy and throwing out wild scenarios but it’s about time he started getting more credit than just “the white guy award.”

Kevin Love is one of the best in the league and if you don’t believe me just watch.

Does Love have a chance to win the MVP?

Follow Warren on Twitter at @ShawSports.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.