While the Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t been lighting up the stats sheet where it really counts (the win column), two of their players, Kevin Love and Darko Milicic, have been gaining massive numbers in blocking and rebounding. So massive, they’ve overtaken the league’s best, in Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard. Can they maintain this for the rest of the season?
Last year, on his way to winning his second defensive player of the year title, Howard notched a monstrous 13.2 rebounds per game and 2.8 blocks per game. At the start of the season, if you had to make a bet on who would win grab the most boards and swat away the most shots, the short odds would have been on Orlando Magic’s premier centre, Superman Howard.
But this season has been Love’s breakout season. No longer sitting on the bench and watching Al Jefferson, Love has been the standout player for the Timberwolves, and one of the main reasons (along with Michael Beasley) that fans of other teams are taking note of the team from Minnesota.
So far, along with his 20.5 points per game average, his 15.6 rebounds per game average means he’s leading the league in rebounds. And not just leading, Howard is a massive 3.4 rebounds per game behind him.
At the start of the season, I was calling Love a double-double machine. I think his new nickname should be "20-20", is there anyone in the league who can get 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same number of games as Love?
Although Love doesn’t have the defensive ability that Howard does, the performances Love has put in for the Timberwolves, who are expected to improve, suggests his form won’t slip too far to let Howard snatch this record out of his hands.
After 21 games for the Magic, Howard has averaged 2.43 blocks a game, a decrease of 0.37 a game since last season, but still a very impressive number, the fourth best in the league, and one that most commentators were predicting would certainly be higher than that of Darko Milicic.
We all know the story of the Timberwolves’ summer, they were derided for picking up Milicic's contract. It’s early but the move doesn’t look so uninformed now. Complimenting his improving on the court play, he’s averaging 2.83 blocks per game, 0.4 more than Howard. This the second best average league, narrowly behind Andrew Bogut.
Milicic has also made the most blocks in the league, and the most per 48 minutes (if you don’t include those who have played less than 10 games). Can he end the season with the blocks per game average? It wouldn't be surprising.
The Timberwolves still haven’t managed to put together a team that is able to win consistently, but with Love and Milicic, they are certainly heading in the right direction.