T-Wolf Rank #1: Kevin Love

Kevin Love shows off his prize for earning number one in T-Wolf Rank? Ok, fine. That is a gold medal.

We have reached the end of T-Wolf Rank. We hope you have enjoyed reading the posts as much as we have enjoyed writing them. Also, thanks for your tweets and comments that made this such a fun project to do. As always, you can follow Jonah (@howlintwolf) Derek (@DerekJamesNBA) and Tom (@Tom_NBA) on Twitter as well.

Are you surprised? I mean, was there any doubt along the way that Kevin Love would top this list? Sure, Rubio may be most valuable, but Love is a close second and easily their best player. Among Howlin’ T-Wolf staff, he was a unanimous selection for this spot, obviously. Love, just 24 years old, has a list of career accomplishments that make most current and former players blush. In fact, as a fellow class of ’07 grad, his resume dwarfs mine, but somebody has to lead the way.

Here’s the shortlist:

–          2009 All-Rookie Second Team

–          2009 NBA Rookie of the Month (March)

–          2010 Gold Medal FIBA World Championships

–          NBA All-Star (’11 and ’12)

–          NBA leader in rebounds per game in 2011

–          2011 Most Improved Player

–          All-NBA Second Team (2012)

–          2012 Gold Medal Team USA

–          Finished 6th in the 2012 NBA MVP voting

–          In 2011, became the first player since Moses Malone in ’82-‘83 to average 20 and 15 while setting the post-merger record for consecutive double-doubles.

Ok, so maybe “short” was the wrong word to describe Kevin Love’s accomplishments-to-date. But darn it if it isn’t an impressive one. Clearly, Love has emerged as a top-whatever player in the league, but can he go anywhere else but down? Yes, the player that averaged 25 and 13 a season ago can still improve.

Let’s start with his defense. Before receiving his second consecutive All-Star nod, Love actually broke public perception and played some decent defense. Granted, it wasn’t enough to scare Dwight Howard or Josh Smith, but it was legitimately good. But once he got that selection it was obvious that he lost interest in playing defense and went back to leaving his man to chase rebounds instead of contesting jumpers. This is frustrating thing since we’ve seen him play defense and now know that it’s simply a choice he chooses not to make at times.

Heck, somehow Love managed not to commit a single foul in the paint last season. That’s probably acceptable for a point guard, but not a power forward. I mean, how is that even freaking possible?!

Love could still grow as a leader, too. In fact, that’s the one thing I hope he learned from playing with Team USA. Leadership isn’t bitching about not getting a call on offense and staying back to argue with the ref while the other team winds up with a power play. Leadership is about doing setting an example and doing what it takes, as your team’s best player, to make sure your team is in the best position to succeed. Also, a leader knows that if his teammates “quit”, then that reflects on him somewhat; basketball is a game of “we”.

Hearing Love talk about wanting to win but not doing team things regularly to help the Timberwolves win is frustrating. Love has to realize that as hard as he works to be great, and he is, he still needs to work harder to be not just the best player he can be, but teammate. That means deciding to get off your ass on a no-call to hustle back on defense, and to make playing defense a focal point night in and night out. And that means publicly taking blame for something that may not be your fault, and dealing with the issue behind the scenes.

(Ok, so Kobe doesn’t abide by the last one, so maybe we’ll just forget that.)

I don’t want to say that he has to act like a number one ranked player – he doesn’t have to do anything – but things like that are expected of a number one player whether or not he asked for those expectations.

However, I’m hopeful that if anyone can do this, it’s Love. It’s been fun to watch him grow as a player season-after-season as a result of his own hard work. Love wants to be great, we want Love to be great, and in just over a month and a half, we’ll find out just what surprises he’ll have for us in 2012-’13.


About Derek James

In addition to writing for Howlin' T-Wolf, Derek James writes about basketball Hardwood Paroxysm in the ESPN TrueHoop Network and covers the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire. Andray Blatche and Isaiah Rider follow him on Twitter.

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