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Kevin Love's Epic FIBA Stats: It's not just the rebounds.

Part One: The Stats You'll Expect

Kevin Love leads Team USA in rebounds, with 28 through 4 games. Behind him is Lamar Odom, with 27, and Kevin Durant, with 26. This means Love has the team's highest per game average, 7.0 rebounds/game.

Since he is playing far fewer minutes than either of those two, he has far and away the best rebound percentage on the team (and of anyone in the tournament, for that matter), with 35.4%, compared to 17.1 for Odom, who is next highest on the team.

As far as Love's rebounds are concerned, the most relevant comparison is to his fellow Team USA big men, Lamar Odom and Tyson Chandler.

  • Love: 8.3 points/game, 7.0 rebounds/game
  • Chandler: 2.8 points/game, 2.5 rebounds/game
  • Odom: 5.3 points/game, 6.5 points/game

Give Love a slight advantage versus Odom, and a major one versus Chandler. We should probably also look at minutes played. Love and Chandler have totals of 42 and 38, respectively, so there's no great discrepancy there. But Odom has played a whopping 81 minutes, nearly double the amount of either of the other two. Adjusting Love's averages from 10.5 minutes/game to Odom's 20.25 minutes/game, and they rocket up to 15.9 points and 13.5 rebounds per Odomgame. Holy production!

Part Two: The Stats You Won't

Here's where it gets interesting. You probably expected the monster rebounding numbers. But what about Love's scoring?He has 33 points through 42 minutes over the 4 games. His 8.3 points per game are nowhere near Kevin Durant's 18.8, and behind Chauncey Billups and Derrick Rose, tied for 4th best on the team with Rudy Gay.

However, Durant, Billups, Rose, and Gay have all played at least 62 minutes, far more than Love's 42. Given another 20 minutes scoring at his current rate, Love's per game average would increase to 12.2 points/game, moving him up to second place on the team.

But can he challenge Durant? Durant is Team USA's leading scorer and its leading minute-getter, with 103 minutes through 4 games. In his 25.8 minutes/game, Durant has scored 18.8 points per game. In 25.8 minutes/game at his current rates, Love would produce (drum roll please):

20.2 points/game, 17.2 rebounds/game

That's right, Kevin Love, in addition to his inhuman rebounding, is scoring more points on a per-minute basis than Kevin Durant and every other player on Team USA.

Conclusions

The obvious conclusion is that Coach K needs to play Kevin Love more. A lot more. Starting "FIBA C" Lamar Odom" has been utter trash by comparison. If no amount of demonstrated inferiority can cause Odom, the team's ostensible veteran leader, to lose his starting spot, he ought to be relegated to a figurehead position, much like Jason Kidd was in '08, when he started every game over both Chris Paul and Deron Williams but finished behind them both in minutes played and crunch time reps.

If Odom doesn't become a figurehead, perhaps it's Coach K who is. As much as people love to be trendy and make bold (stupid) predictions that some team other than Team USA will win Worlds, the reality is that this team, '08 Olympians or not, is far and away the best team in the field and should always have been considered the prohibitive favorite. Coach K can bring them to victory while still not maximizing his or the team's performance. If they win Gold with Odom continuing to play double the minutes of Love, that's exactly what he will have done.

As for what this means for the Wolves, I submit that we are still underestimating Mr. Love's capacity for stardom. Last year, on a crap team with few plays run for him, he still managed 17.7 points/36 minutes. What's the points per game threshold for a star big man, 20? Heck, Kevin Garnett never got higher than the 22.1 points/36 minutes he posted in his MVP year. Here Love is now, on a much better team, still without any plays being run for him, leading the team in points per minute.

How hard will it be for Love to become a star big man in the traditional 20/10 (read: 20/14) sense? Consider that:

  1. He's 21, and should improve naturally as all 21 year olds do.
  2. He's going to get more than last year's 28.6 minutes/game.
  3. He's going to have better and improving teammates than he has so far in his career.
  4. He could (gasp!) have more of the offense run through him.

All of those sources of improvement are really simple, if not automatic. In my opinion, the unrealistic view is to think Kevin Love won't eventually average 20 points per game.

Updates

Thanks to my CH posters for the following links.  Looks like I won't need to calculate this stuff manually anymore.

http://www.in-the-game.org/?page_id=8651

http://www.basketball-reference.com/blog/?p=7294

http://www.usabasketball.com/mens/national/2010_MWC_USA_Stats.html

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