This Jim Souhan column ran on Nov. 13, 2013:
For years, the Timberwolves tried to lure fans to Target Center by touting appearances by the best players in the NBA.
Tonight, they can do that again.
Only this time, the guy they’ll be touting will be one of their own.
The following sentence no longer requires a qualifier:
Kevin Love is one of the best players in the NBA.
Not one of the best players who hasn’t made the playoffs. Not one of the best white guys. Not one of the best accumulators of numbers, or best bearded power forwards, or best example of the benefits of rapid weight loss, or the best player ever to see through David Kahn.
Love is simply one of the best players in a league loaded with great players.
The numbers prove that.
Love ranks second in the league in scoring, first in rebounding, and tied for 24th in assists. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) ranks him second in the league.
The eyes reveal that.
Love is playing beautiful basketball in a beautiful offensive system. He has taken the game that made him an Olympic gold medalist and rising star and added intuitive passing, defensive intensity, full-court hustle and on-court leadership. His court-length, wrist-flick outlet passing has become the most unique offensive weapon in the NBA.
The results bolster that.
On a team that has already lost two rotation players to injury, that has gotten no help out of the last draft, that has been sorely disappointed by the performances of Nikola Pekovic, Derrick Williams, Alexy Shved and the shooting of Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves are 5-3, having whipped Oklahoma City and the Lakers, and having lost two close road games on the second night of back-to-backs, including Monday night in Los Angeles against the wondrously talented Clippers.
Love’s last-second tip rimmed out, or the Wolves might have even won that one.
He’s averaging 26.4 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. He’s never before averaged more than 2.5 assists per game in a season.
For the first time in his career he’s making his teammates better, and the primary beneficiary has been new shooting guard Kevin Martin, averaging 24.6 points (tying his career best, set in 2008-2009) on a career-high 17.1 shots per game.
Martin is proof that Love is making the game easier for his teammates and doing the hard work himself. Martin is scoring mostly on open three-pointers and on cuts to the basket, where Love and Rubio hit him in stride.