Yet, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio have overachieved more than anyone would have imagined.
Now that Rubio has torn his ACL and will miss the rest of the season, K-Love is going to have to lead the team all by himself.
After Love's 30 points propelled the Timberwolves to their first Rubio-less victory over a hot Phoenix Suns team, the All-Star forward is showing it will be possible for him to continue leading the T-Wolves to the playoffs. That win brings the Wolves within a half-game of the Houston Rockets for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
K-Love has led the Timberwolves by playing the power forward position in a way that has almost never been seen before.
In just his fourth season in the NBA, Love has already solidified himself as one of the top two rebounders in the league today. He also has improved himself from a quality scorer last season (20.2 PPG) to a top-four scorer in the entire NBA in the 2011-12 campaign (25.6 PPG).
If Love can hold his 25.6 points per game average and raise his rebounds per game average from 13.8 to 14.0, he will be only the second player to average 25 points and 14 rebounds per game since the ABA-NBA merger, and he will join Hall of Famer Moses Malone as the only other player to do so.
The most impressive thing about Love's scoring is the wide range of ways in which he scores. In my opinion, he has recently overtaken Dirk Nowitzki as the best shooting big man in the NBA.
This season, Love is averaging 1.7 three-pointers made per game, and that is something Nowitzki has not done since the 2002-03 season.
Besides lighting it up from the three-point line, the Wolves' superstar also can bang inside the paint. This is proven by Love's consistency of getting to the free-throw line. He leads the NBA in free throws made with 274 and is shooting 83.3 percent from the charity stripe.
The 23-year-old has led the T-Wolves to wins in four of their last five games with the best five-game span of his career. Love is averaging an outstanding 34.2 points and 13.2 boards per game. Along with that, he is a lights-out 20-for-40 from beyond the arc.
Compared to the rest of the MVP candidates, K-Love is definitely the most valuable player to his team. If MVP favorites LeBron James and Kevin Durant were taken off their respective teams, the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder would still be top four teams in their conferences.
LeBron James' teammate, Dwyane Wade could easily win a MVP of his own, and the young Russell Westbrook for OKC could do the same someday.
Unlike any of these players, Love's Timberwolves undoubtedly would not stand a chance without him. If Love was taken off the Wolves' roster, they would be battling with the Charlotte Bobcats and Washington Wizards for the worst record in the NBA.
Now that Rubio is gone, Minnesota is essentially the same 17-win team they were last season. If Love can lead the Wolves to a playoff berth, there is no doubt he deserves strong consideration to be given the NBA Most Valuable Player Award.
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