The Cleveland Cavaliers, led by the self-proclaimed “best player in the world” LeBron James, just got swept in the 2018 NBA Finals. The running narrative all season has been that LeBron has no help. Half of the Twitterverse would have you believe that it was LeBron against the world out there. But what if I told you that the 2018 Cavs had another future Hall-of-Famer, who happens to be under age 30 and in his prime? Folks, it’s time to discuss Kevin Love and his Hall-of-Fame prospects.
This post was inspired by Bomani Jones, who recently tweeted that Love was “likely” to make the Hall-of-Fame. This made me raise my eyebrows. Kevin Love is a future Hall-of-Famer? For real? I’ve always respected his game and considered him a solid player, but he doesn’t make me go “wow, there’s a Hall-of-Fame Power Forward right there.” However, I saw that basketball-reference.com gives Love a 68% chance at making the Hall-of-Fame, ranking ahead of current Hall-of-Famers Wes Unseld, Nate Thurmond, and Yao Ming. That’s when I knew it was time to do some digging.
To get a sense of popular opinion, I polled my Twitter followers on whether or not they thought Love was a Hall-of-Fame caliber NBA player. Here are the results:
The poll drew several interesting comments. I’ll leave you with three that I found interesting.
- @BendItLikeBekam said that it would be “an abomination” for anyone to vote yes.
- @bigcuz65 said that Love was on track to make the Hall-of-Fame until he started playing with LeBron.
- @GunnerMcSmoke said that Love’s resume amounts to him “definitely” being a Hall-of-Famer
The Resume Rundown
Name: Kevin Love
Position: Power Forward/Center
Years active: (2008-Present)
Career Path: Drafted 5th overall in 2008 by Memphis. Traded to Minnesota on draft night in an 8-player trade that included OJ Mayo. Traded to Cleveland in a three-team trade between Cleveland, Minnesota, and Philadelphia in 2014. Minnesota notably added Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett in return for Love.
Notable Career Averages: 18.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 44% from the field, 37% from 3, 82% from free throw, 21.9 PER
Notable NBA Accomplishments: 5x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Second Team, 1x NBA Champion, 1x Rebounding Champ, 1x 3pt Shootout Champ, 1x All-Rookie Second Team.
The Case For K-Love
He has a solid resume
With career averages of 18.3 points and 11.3 rebounds, Kevin Love established himself as a walking double-double. He had a streak of 53 consecutive games with a double-double in 2011 back when he was in Minnesota. He already has 5 All-Star appearances and could be on track for more considering that he was an All-Star the past two years. Despite having no All-NBA First team appearances and just two All-NBA second team appearances, Love has played at a high-level for nearly a decade and is routinely considered to be one of the best power-forwards in the NBA.
He played a big role on a championship team
The 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers won one of the most memorable NBA Finals that I can remember. They came back from a 3-1 deficit against the greatest regular season team in NBA history. While Love’s stats weren’t spectacular during the Finals, he did manage to grab 14 rebounds in the decisive game 7. And his averages of 16 points and nearly 10 rebounds helped the Cavs secure the number one seed in the East and home-court advantage until the Finals.
Worse players have made the Hall-of-Fame
Do you have to be an NBA champion to make the Hall-of-Fame? No. Do you have to have an All-Star appearance? No. Can you get in with mediocre career stats such as roughly 12 points and 3 rebounds per game? Sure you can. Hall-of-fame votes in the NBA depend on how much the voters like your story. Want proof? Here are 3 examples:
- Arvydas Sabonis. Zero Championships. Zero All-Star appearances. Career averages of roughly 12 points and 7 rebounds. Al Jefferson has a better resume than that. Granted, he didn’t play in the NBA until he was 31 and built the bulk of his reputation in Lithuania. That said, Sabonis was pretty much a glorified role-player in the NBA. He was enshrined in the Naismith Hall-of-Fame in 2011.
- Bill Bradley. Yes, he did win two championships with the Knicks and went on to a successful career as a U.S. senator, but should he really be an NBA Hall-of-Famer? He averaged 12.4 points and 3.2 rebounds for his career. He never averaged more than 16 points per game. He only made one All-Star team. He only played 10 years. He was enshrined in the Naismith Hall-of-Fame in 1983.
- Ralph Sampson. College legend? Of course. Very good NBA player for 6 seasons? Absolutely. But a Hall-of-Famer? With averages of 15.4 points and 8.8 rebounds? He did make 4 All-Star teams and an All-NBA second team, but Love’s resume is better. Sampson was enshrined in 2011.
The Case Against K-Love
He just doesn’t feel like a Hall-of-Famer
MVP’s: 0. All-NBA First Team selections: 0. All-Defensive Team Selections: 0. Times leading a major statistical category: 1 (Rebounding in 2011).
Like I said previously, Kevin Love is a very good NBA player. But, in my eyes, he doesn’t ascend to the level of greatness that should be reserved for Hall-of-Famers. You could argue that he’s never been the best player at his position. You could look at his defense as a potential weak point in his game. You could point out that he was the third option on his championship team. He makes the All-Star game every other year, and I’d certainly take him over most Power-Forwards, but he just doesn’t feel like a Hall-of-Famer. Nevertheless, he may have the resume to make the cut. Especially if he continues to play well over the next few years.
He might not have the right background story
While Love’s resume may be more compelling than Sabonis’s, Bradley’s, or Sampson’s, his background story may not be. Sabonis was a Lithuanian legend. Bradley turned out to be a U.S. Senator. Sampson is one of the most storied college players of all-time. Kevin Love was a very-good player at UCLA, but I’m not sure if his backstory is enough to help him if he ends up on the borderline.
But what about C-Webb?
Chris Webber is arguably a better player at the same position, who has yet to be enshrined. I’d bet that he gets in eventually, but it may be tough to justify Love getting in if he doesn’t.
It is certainly possible that Kevin Love could make the Hall-of-Fame. But, I can’t predict how voters will react to his case in the future. His story is far from finished. That said, I will stick with Bomani and Basketball Reference and say that Kevin Love will more likely than not end up making the Hall-of-Fame.