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Is Kevin Love the League's Most Improved Player?

First of all, let's just say that no matter what conclusion I reach in this post, it should be clear that Kevin Love is the team's best player, a pillar around which to build the team, and the best thing going about this franchise.  Period.  It has been obvious for quite some time that he is the best player on the team and it will likely continue as such for a long, long time.

Second, since this is the Wolves we are talking about let's get the comedy angle out of the way.  On a team being built around the dual concepts of long and athletic, and with a front office committed to avoiding in any way, shape, or form modern data analysis, it is Alanis-worthy irony that the player being celebrated is decidedly neither long nor athletic, and whose basketball gifts can best be described and detailed via an excel spread sheet.  Looking over the team's press material about the announcement, it is impossible to miss their use of win shares and rebounding percentage.  If only David Kahn and Kurt Rambis had known about such radical concepts last season...well, we probably wouldn't be talking about Kevin Love's MIP award.  Is it deserved?  We'll take a deeper look below the fold.

The first question one needs to ask about this award is this: Is this year's improvement greater than last year's improvement? Let's take a look at how Love improved between season one and two:

1st year 2nd year %difference
PER 18.3 20.7 +13.11
usg% 21.0 22.4 +6.66
oreb% 15.1 14.5 -3.97
to% 12.4 13.2 +6.45
ts% .538 .548 +1.85
3p% .105 .330 +214.5
oe/de 112/109 113/109 +.89/0

How about between the 2nd and 3rd year?

2nd year 3rd year % difference
PER 20.7 24.3 +17.39
usg% 22.4 22.9 +2.232
oreb% 14.5 13.7 -5.517
to% 13.2 11.1 -15.91
ts% .548 .593 +8.212
3p% .330 .417 +26.36
oe/de 113/109 123/108 +8.85/-.9

OK, before I go any further, can anybody tell me what are the criteria for MIP? Now that we have that squared away (%), did Kevin Love make significant improvements between years 2 and 3 that are above and beyond the differences between years 1 and 2?  Now, I obviously have something of a small sample of stats, but these ones cover the basics: overall efficiency, workload, offensive rebounding, turnovers, and shooting efficiency (to include free throw shooting). 

Kevin Love showed significant increases in 3 point shooting, PER, and ts (mainly due to his 3 point shooting) in his 3rd year in the league.  In his 2nd year in the league he posted increases in these categories that are in the ballpark of the differences in year 3. 

What is interesting about Love's 3rd season, is that he appears to have crossed some sort of threshold for across-the-board improvement that gives the overall appearance of massive improvement.  He continues to improve at a steady clip with 3 point shooting, trips to the line, reduced turnovers, and so on and so forth, and what this means is that he showed significant gains in things like PER and Win Shares. 

Overall, the main impediment I have for calling Love the MIP is that he showed signs of being able to produce on this sort of level in his 2nd year, and even back into his 1st year in the league.  On paper, i think he did enough to justify this award in the sense that it's not ridiculous to talk about.  In my gut, it seems off.  The guy was putting up sick 36 minute numbers with crazy percentages in his 2nd year.  Thanks to the 31/31 game, he finally got the minutes he deserved.  His most notable gain (3 point shooting) didn't really provide that big of a boost to his game.  He has 1.1 more 3pa/game this year than last.  Does a 26% increase in 1.1 more attempts/game equal a massive improvement?  What is substantial about that? 

Kevin Love is a fantastic young and improving player.  Is he the league's most improved player?  At the end of the day, I'm not sure what that means and I'm not sure you can really suss out his overall improvement in year 3 from his improvement in year 2 as being anything more than statistical noise involved with playing the number of minutes he deserved in year 2. 

What is really interesting about Love is his changes in per 36 numbers between years 1 and 2 and years 2 and 3:

per 36 year 1 year 2 %difference
points 15.8 17.7 +12.03
turnovers 2.1 2.5 +19.05
oreb 4.8 4.8 0
reb 12.9 13.8 +6.977
fta 5.9 5.8 -1.695
3pa 0.3 2.2 +633.3

And the 2nd interval:

2nd year 3rd year %change
ponits 17.7 20.2 +14.12
turnovers 2.5 2.1 -16
oreb 4.8 4.5 -6.25
reb 13.9 15.3 +10.17
fta 5.8 6.9 +18.97
3pa 2.2 2.9 +31.82

Side-by-side % comparison

1/2 2/3
points +12,03 +14.12
turnovers +19,05 -16
oreb 0 -6.25
reb +6.977 +10.17
fta -1,695 +18.97
3pa +633 +31.82

Free throws and three point shooting%.  Is that worth the award? 

Let's step away from the stat sheet for a second.  This award, the 31/31 game, the continued high level of play from a single player...Kevin Love is the single bright spot for this franchise.  I'm not sure that's worth a league-wide award, but it certainly is worth something with the few remaining diehard fans.  Hats off to Kevin for his achievement. 

BTW: Kevin mentioned the Dylan Witschen Foundation during his speech.  You can learn more about the foundation by clicking here. Minnesota has a wealth of cancer research donation options.  My personal favorite is the Hormel Institute.  You can read about HI by clicking here. You can donate by clicking here.

Random links:

- Stats Cube for everybody.

- The Wolves need to get this.

- Dwane Casey is getting a peek from Houston.  Here's Kevin Arnovitz taking a look at possible Clippers coaches in an article from last year with Casey in it.  It's a good read for Wolves fan.