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Is Kevin Love the best player who didn’t make the playoffs in his first six seasons?

May 22, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

Kevin Love AP

Making the playoffs in the NBA isn’t that hard. Each year, most teams do it.

It especially shouldn’t be difficult for a team with a superstar, who really tips the scales in a sport where just 10 players participate at a time.

So, why hasn’t Kevin Love reached the postseason?

Love entered the NBA as a skilled player ready to contribute, and as he’s gotten in better shape and more aggressive, he’s developed into one of the league’s top players. Yet, he’s never made the playoffs

Here are the 25 players with the most win shares in their first six seasons not to reach the postseason (those who spent that entire time with one team in green):


Only Elton Brand, who was drafted by the Bulls and then traded to the Clippers following two years in Chicago, had more win shares in his first six seasons than Love and didn’t make the playoffs.

Love is the best player to spend his first six seasons on the same team without making the playoffs.

That could make him overrated — why has such a good player continuously missed the postseason? Or it could mean he’s paid his dues and should be allowed by the court of public opinion to leave Minnesota without scorn.

There are certainly elements of truth in both sides, but I tend to side with the latter outlook.

Win shares probably overrate Love, who chases rebounds over playing sound defense. Rebounds show up in the box score and are a key piece of the win-share formula, and individual defense remains difficult to quantify.

But the win-share gap between Love and the next-closest player on the list – Pervis Short with the Warriors back in the 80s – is substantial. It’s difficult to believe Short makes that up with aspects of the game not reflected in win shares.

Simply, Love’s situation is unprecedented. Nobody has ever played so well through six seasons without making the playoffs, and it’s because the Timberwolves failed to properly support him.

They wasted time with Kurt Rambis, Jonny Flynn and Wesley Johnson . Even this season, when they assembled an underrated and successful starting lineup, their bench and late-game execution did them in.

Of course, Love is culpable in Minnesota’s crunch-time problems. You can’t easily separate his own issues with Minnesota’s.

But, soon enough, you can separate him from the Timberwolves’.

  1. jkirby317 - May 22, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    He will be in the playoffs next season. Minnesota will not.

    • apkyletexas - May 22, 2014 at 10:21 AM

      Chasing rebounds over playing sound defense also give him additional easy offensive opportunities – so his offensive numbers are also up compared to a more conventional power forward star like Duncan or Garnett.

      • jkirby317 - May 22, 2014 at 10:24 AM

        Just let him be him. He is not a leader like Garnett (KG took Minnesota to the playoffs). Duncan? No effin’ way. Duncan is the best PF ever. Come on Texas! You should have known that.

      • apkyletexas - May 22, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        But he’s putting up numbers faster. And most folks just look at the numbers.

    • pharohislife - May 22, 2014 at 10:28 AM

      With Boston.

      • jkirby317 - May 22, 2014 at 10:30 AM

        then maybe he won’t be in the playoffs next season.

  2. balsagna - May 22, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    This is my concern for any team that is trading for Love. I feel like a superstar or franchise cornerstone player should be able to lead his team to the playoffs as an 8 seed. I know it’s more difficult in the west, but we have seen the ability of one player to carry a team to the playoffs. I am not sure how to feel quite honestly, because his ability is unquestionable, but his lack of playoff appearances makes me wonder.

    • rodyaugu - May 22, 2014 at 1:01 PM

      Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, and Pekovic, He had more than enough to make playoffs.

    • zerole00 - May 22, 2014 at 1:09 PM

      I think Kevin Love is similar to Carmelo in a lot of ways. They’re good players, but their skillset and habits don’t make for a good franchise cornerstone to build around. They’d be amazing as the #2 of a team, but not #1.

      I think the best possible outcome for Minnesota is they ride Love’s (possible) overvalue and fleece a team for draft picks. With the Knicks and Nets devoid of picks for the next couple years (and with PJ now in charge of the front office), I don’t know what other team would take the bait though.

      Phoenix and Boston definitely have picks to spare, but I think their GMs are too smart for that

      • antistratfordian - May 22, 2014 at 2:23 PM

        Except for Melo having been to the playoffs 10 times in 11 years.

      • daddyghi - May 23, 2014 at 1:50 AM

        plus he’s oft injured… he may look like a tough guy, but the body’s fragile…

  3. campcouch - May 22, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    OKC will trade Westbrook for him.

    • tved12 - May 22, 2014 at 4:57 PM

      Dude, I proposed this trade the other day;

      Love and Rubio for Westbrook and a throw away (maybe a pick?)

      I think it would work out well for both teams.

  4. nolanwiffle - May 22, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    “chases rebounds over playing sound defense”….?? Someone’s going to have to explain this one to me. Didin’t Dennis Rodman just get enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame for his ability to “chase rebounds”?

    • claymatthewsisonsteroids - May 22, 2014 at 10:45 AM

      Love is notorious for not attempting to block shots, which allows him to be better positioned to grab a rebound.

      • rodyaugu - May 22, 2014 at 1:02 PM

        That’s terrible if it’s true.

      • nolanwiffle - May 22, 2014 at 2:05 PM

        Kevin Love: 12 rebounds – .4 blocks
        Charles Barkley: 11.5 rebounds – .8 blocks
        Karl Malone: 10 rebounds – .7 blocks

        What’s the rumpus? I’m still not seeing Love’s big rebounding numbers as a deficiency in his defensive game.

      • antistratfordian - May 22, 2014 at 2:33 PM

        @nolanwiffle – In their first six seasons Barkley logged 529 blocks and Malone logged 353 blocks, while Love has only managed 173 blocks.

        So there’s quite a big difference between a 0.4 block average over their first six years and 1.1 for Barkley or 0.7 for Malone. Oddly enough, Barkley has all those blocks but he was never considered a good defender.

      • nolanwiffle - May 22, 2014 at 3:05 PM

        A half of a blocked shot per game and three-tenths of a blocked shot per game are a big difference? I’m not even saying he is of the same caliber player as those two…..he’s not.

        But one can point to any player past or present and find something “wrong” with their game. To me, criticizing Love for getting too many rebounds at the expense of blocking, perhaps, another one shot per game is utterly absurd.

        Great defender? No. Great player? Without question.

      • duhwighthoward - May 22, 2014 at 5:33 PM

        finally someone with a brain

    • doug2626 - May 22, 2014 at 11:26 AM

      Dennis Rodman also played superior defense while “chasing rebounds”.

      • claymatthewsisonsteroids - May 22, 2014 at 11:32 AM

        That’s great. Love doesn’t.

      • doug2626 - May 22, 2014 at 11:58 AM

        I was replying to nolanwiffle.

      • nolanwiffle - May 22, 2014 at 3:08 PM

        How’d Rodman fare at the other end of the floor? Give you many points?

    • ddpenny - May 23, 2014 at 9:52 AM

      Rodman “chose” not to score.

  5. cruzan80 - May 22, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    “Making the playoffs in the NBA isn’t that hard.”

    Exactly, he is a typical looter in the riot type player. Stuff the stat sheet & lose the game. He’s a below average defender & his offense isn’t prolific enough to draw that much attention from opposing defenses.

    He IS indeed overrated. This last team was NOT void of talent. Kevin Martin, Ricky Rubio, & Nikola Pekovic all had higher PER’s than Dallas’s Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis, Shaun Marion & Portland’s Nick Batum & Wesley Matthews….yet they both finished with better records than the T’wolves.

    And before some genius starts talking about Pekovic missing 28 games…Marc Gosol missed 23 & LeMarcus Aldridge missed 13….didn’t stop them from making the post season this year.

    People throw the “overrated” label at Carmelo Anthony constantly & treat this guy like the second coming of Kevin McHale. Yet it took Melo 10 years & the circus that is the New York Knicks to cause him to miss the playoffs for the 1st time EVER. Love is six years deep into his career at still hasn’t even sniffed the post season.

    The T’wolves are better off without this guy…hopefully they can get some sucker to trade their 1st round pick for him.

    • apkyletexas - May 22, 2014 at 11:07 AM

      Excellent post. Have a thumbs up.

    • fanofthegame79 - May 22, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      I tend to agree with everything you said. I’m not sure why some people want to crown him as the best thing since sliced bread, but his team’s record (and lack of playoff appearances) speaks for themselves. You were dead on with the Mavs and Trailblazers comparisons as well as with the Melo comparison!

    • duhwighthoward - May 22, 2014 at 12:02 PM

      @cruzan80, thank you for proving that your advanced stats don’t matter. Stop reading box scores and start watching games.

      Kevin Martin is not as good as Shawn Marion.
      Ricky Rubio is not as good as Monta Ellis.

      Now go back to your armchair.

    • calkinsrob - May 22, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      Love hasnt even lead his team to .500+ record. Hes very overrated!

    • nadoinspincity - May 23, 2014 at 3:19 AM

      In Love’s defense he was a bench player for his first two years, followed by 2 years of pretty awful supporting casts, followed by him breaking his hand the next season. So he really only had one team that had a legitimate shot of being a playoff team(this years team).

  6. sportsfan18 - May 22, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    Yes, Love IS overrated… no doubt about it.

    But he is talented too…

    Melo IS overrated too… no doubt about it.

    But he is talented too…

    On offense, Love puts the ball in the basket with greater efficiency than Melo. He scores MORE points on FEWER shots than Melo does.

    Why just this past season, Love had the 9th HIGHEST points per shot in the NBA (counts all types of shots, 2 pts, 3 pts and free throws – basically how many points does a player average for each time he shoots the ball at the basket).

    While Love was 9th in the NBA this season, Melo was 41st in this stat this year. Simply put, Love will score more points when the ball leaves his hand for the basket than Melo does and thumbs down do not change that fact.

    You mentioned PER of other players in your post. Love had the THIRD highest PER in the this season.

    KD and LeBron were 1st and 2nd of course… but out of everyone else in the league, it was Love who came out on top…

    • apkyletexas - May 22, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      Carmelo plays defense. His problem is too much dribble isolation on offense. Plus he’s surrounded by a group of vastly over-rated players, and a constantly injured Stoudemire and Chandler. Doesn’t matter – neither one could get their team to the playoffs this year.

    • duhwighthoward - May 22, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      Carmelo’s overrated, Love’s overrated, etc….

      Why don’t you tell us your top 20 or 30 players then?

    • cruzan80 - May 22, 2014 at 12:20 PM

      “Love had the THIRD highest PER in the this season.”

      That makes my point even MORE valid than it already was. His PER along with some of his teammates all had higher PER’s than a couple of the teams that finished AHEAD of his in the standings. What does that tell you??? Ask his teammates (Ricky Rubio in particular) & T’wolves fans how they feel about all those worthless stats you just posted.

      For all the love (pun intended) he gets, he has FAILED to do what most superstar players do at least once in a 5 year span…take their team to the post season. You religiously post on here how you feel Melo will never win a title because he’s not efficient & doesn’t play defense. You lobby for Love to join the Bulls all day long because he worked out one summer with Derrick Rose & shoots 3’s better than Melo. Yet you can’t explain why Melo has been able to carry his teams into the post season 10 years in a row (8 of those years in the same Western Conference as Love) & Love hasn’t sniffed it not ONCE.

      Haters like yourself tried to say the Nuggets were better without Melo. Well, let’s look at what’s happened since Melo left Denver? George Karl gets fired & they missed the playoffs for the first time since the year before they drafted….wait for it…CARMELO ANTHONY.

      The T’wolves are better off without this guy…what’s the worst that’ll happen without him…miss the playoffs???

  7. scottolstad - May 22, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    “Only Elton Brand, who was drafted by the Bulls and then traded to the Clippers following two years in Chicago,”

    “Love is the best player to spend his first six seasons on the same team without making the playoffs.”

    Honest question: Looking at the win shares chart, why is Love considered better than Elton Brand?

    • Dan Feldman - May 22, 2014 at 11:19 AM

      Brand did not spend his first six seasons on the same team. Hence, he is not a possibility as the best player to spend his first six seasons on the same team without making the playoffs

    • dluxxx - May 22, 2014 at 11:21 AM

      Because Brand didn’t spend his first 6 years with the Bulls. That was the qualifier for the whole article. Not the best player not to make the playoffs in their first 6 years, but the best to play with the same team in their first 6 years.

      • scottolstad - May 22, 2014 at 12:46 PM

        Ahhhh I see. Thanks for the help

  8. dluxxx - May 22, 2014 at 11:19 AM

    KLove is an unquestioned offensive force and rebounding machine. But as noted he doesn’t play defense. Not one lick. He sucks at D, and thus will never be a complete player until he sacrifices some of his offensive and rebounding numbers to concentrate on being a better defender. I doubt that happens. He’ll go down as being a prolific scorer and rebounder, but for all his numbers, he isn’t “the guy.” Never has been. He can carry a team for stretches, but regardless of how many points you put up, you still need to be able to stop someone from scoring right back on you.

    I hate the Lakers, and Kobe is a prima donna in a lot of ways, but one thing that made him “the guy” was the fact that he was also an excellent defender (yes I’m speaking in the past tense, we’ll see if he can resurrect his career, but I think that train has left the station). Love will never reach the playoffs until he can be paired with a team that has a strong defense, particularly one that can mask his defense down low.

    The Wolves problem this last season was definitely a lack of clutch at the end of games. They had a huge point differential, but lost all the close games. Why? No defense. They were terrible at it. I love me some Pekovic, but the guy doesn’t alter shots. He can body you up, and he is a great scoring C, but he doesn’t block shots. Neither does Love. When your C & PF aren’t altering shots in the paint, you lose. Pretty simple equation.

    I’ll be sad to see Love leave, and I’m about 99% sure it’ll happen. I’m just hoping that the Wolves can get enough talent back in return to make it worth it.

    • cruzan80 - May 22, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      Well said sir…

  9. m4a188 - May 22, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    He puts up numbers, but he does not possess the intangibles to win games.

  10. paleihe - May 22, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    Love is David Lee with a three point shot. That’s essentially it.

  11. norcalsportsknowledge - May 22, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    I’ll take a David Lee type player w/ a 3pt shot all day,everyday! Yes there average at best at defense,but they make up for it on offensive end. A smart GM will pair him with a center and SF who can play D and guards who can shoot.(sound familiar Dubs fans). What do Love and Brand have in common? They both had terrible GM’s. Love would of been good enough to carry his team to playoffs in the East, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Your kidding yourself if you think Love’s not an elite player because he doesn’t play good defense. There’s been elite players that can’t play D and there’s been elite players who can’t play offense. Of course you like elite players that play both ways,but there are only so many elite players out there,don’t get picky. The recipe for championship teams seem to be a balanced starting 5 w/3 elite players and 3/4 guys coming off the bench that know there rolls. Sounds easy!

  12. metalhead65 - May 22, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    so what will be the excuse for the wolves not making the playoffs after they trade him? the only person I can name who has played on the same team with him is rickey rubio and he has not exactly been second coming of pistol pete everyone claimed he would be. face it he is a great player stuck on a lousy franchise. you people bashing him will still be doing the same thing when the next team he plays for makes the playoffs. only this time you will be saying it was not because of him because he will not be putting up the same numbers because he will not have to!

  13. jadaruler - May 22, 2014 at 12:59 PM

    Minnesota didn’t make the playoffs because they can’t play defense and their version of Bob Cousy can’t score.

    You won’t make playoffs in the West without your point or in the case of Houston and Dallas, your dominant ball handler being able to score.

    There’s a perfect trade out there for love and it involves Atlanta and Al Horford.

  14. cantonbound13 - May 22, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    He needs to improve defensively .

  15. genericcommenter - May 22, 2014 at 3:18 PM

    It’s a pretty low bar. The NBA has a pretty good history of 1 REAL star arriving and turning losing teams into contenders. So, not that many stars don’t go to the playoffs within 2-3 years.

  16. mackcarrington - May 22, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    The only one of these players names that jump out at me is Shareef Abdur-Raheem. I recall him as a man among boys in college, and a very underrated NBA player on bad Vancouver teams.

  17. tved12 - May 22, 2014 at 5:07 PM

    As a T-Wolves fan I’ve enjoyed watching Love play. My theory is he needs to be the 2nd best player on a team to be successful, just like Melo.

    Love is not a leader, he’s proven time and time again that he won’t take you to the playoffs on his back. He can’t help his team get a stop when they need one and his stats are hollow many nights. In fact, after countless losses over his career we continue to hear, “We have to give more effort…” Are you kidding me? You’ve never made the playoffs and you’re paid millions of dollars to play a game, what more do you need to give your full “effort?”

    I think he would be great on a team where he isn’t “the guy.” Put him with a really good PG or SG and his stats start to mean more. I think a trade with OKC would be awesome, Love and Rubio for Westbrook and anything. I believe it would be a win-win as Rubio could feed Love and KD constantly and Westbrook could bring the intensity and leadership the Wolves need so desperately.

    What do other folks think? What are some other realistic trades that you could see?

  18. norcalsportsknowledge - May 22, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    There are only 2 REAL stars in there prime right now. Lebron and KD can carry there teams to title contention. Chris Paul, probably 3rd best player, would have a hard time carrying a poorly put together team to playoffs. Rubio,Kevin Martin,Pekovic are all good players,but along w/Love none of them can play D. Not good combo when 4 out of your starting 5 play below average D. REAL stars are very,very rare and don’t get traded!

  19. packhawk04 - May 22, 2014 at 6:21 PM

    Gotta play defense at some point if you wanna make the playoffs.

    “The hell i do”- kevin love

  20. antaresrex - May 22, 2014 at 8:51 PM

    “Making the playoffs in the NBA isn’t that hard. Each year, most teams do it.”

    It used to be even easier than it is now. From 1984 to 1988, there were only 23 teams in the league, but 16 of them made the playoffs. Only one player in the group above intersects with that time frame. I’m not surprised.

    It didn’t help that Love missed significant time in two of his four seasons as a starter. And if the bench and late-game execution are to blame, then that’s as much the responsibility of the front office and coaching staff as it is the players.

    Minnesota is coming off their ninth straight losing season, and their 40 wins this year is the highest win total they’ve had in that streak. And that includes Garnett’s last two seasons there. Speaking of, the Minny FO didn’t really do a stellar job supporting Garnett while he was there, either. That reminds me – I remember Garnett getting a lot of flak for being a box-score monster who couldn’t come through when it counted all those years in Minnesota. Then he won a championship in Boston.

    I’m not saying Love isn’t a below-average defender (he is) or that the box score might overrate him (it probably does). The fact that he hasn’t made the playoffs yet is, to agree with the author, more the fault of his team’s front office, and less his.

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