Will Kevin Love stay or will he go? In a state of 10,000 lakes, Minnesotans are asking that one question today. The fourth-year forward from UCLA can extend his contract for likely a four-year deal worth $61 million or a five-year deal worth $78 million with Minnesota by tonight’s midnight Eastern deadline. If he doesn’t, he’ll become a restricted free agent this summer. Right now, there are reports saying he is expected to sign a four-year, $62 million extension today.
His decision may have been uncertain most of Tuesday, but what’s concrete is that Love got to this envious point because of the straight-up rise his game has taken in the last two seasons to become one of the league’s best big men. After walking out of Kurt Rambis‘ doghouse late in 2010, he’s now averaging 24.9 points and 13.9 rebounds per game and comes up with double-doubles like it’s an automated process.
So how did Love get to this point? Here are 10 of his best reasons why.
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10. He Has Range
While known to step out and shoot the three (a 38 percent shooter from there for his career), Love’s shot clinic before the Final Four in 2008 went the length of the court. It’s kind of like those Bird/Jordan or Dwight/LeBron McDonald’s H-O-R-S-E commercials, but without the green screen.
9. Nothing To See Here
Fairly or unfairly, as a fan growing up of Arvydas Sabonis’ deft skills and devastating eye for looks for his teammates, I’m going to see every good passing big man as a facsimile of Sabas. But I do like to think Love, though 100 percent more mobile than the big Lithuanian, modeled part of his game from him after growing up near Portland. Here he drops a nice little dime to a cutting Luke Ridnour.
8. Big Numbers
Of the last 10 games where a player has dropped 30 points and 20 boards in the NBA, half have been by Love. The last time he did that was on Dec. 27, where he dropped 31 and 20 on the Bucks. Part of why I like this clip is that the moment the announcers say, “How about Jon Leuer’s defensive assignment right now,” Love dips toward the rack and flushes with two hands. Well, they did say it wasn’t going to be easy…
7. A Streak-Ender
Love snapped a 32-year-old record held by Malone for most consecutive double-doubles in 2011 with his 45th straight here. He only went for 11 points and 14 points, but it kept alive a streak that would last 53 games.
While the outlet pass, this one to Michael Beasley, is a patented, much-publicized part of Love’s game, this one is a little special.
The pass to Beasley closed some kind of basketball circle that began when the two were prep stars. On a national circuit stop in New York City, Love threw a full-court alley-oop Beasley turned into a 360. You get the feeling the two could have gone on all day doing this.