Sports Illustrated is in the midst of their countdown of the top 100 players for the 2018 season in the NBA. Tristan Thompson was the first inclusion on the list at No. 52, Jae Crowder at No. 44, Isiah Thomas came in at No. 40, while Derrick Rose and J.R. Smith landed among the honorable mentions.
Next up on Sports Illustrated rankings is Kevin Love, who came in as the No. 26 best player in the league. This put him just slightly ahead of both Denver’s Paul Millsap and Boston’s Al Horford.
Here’s what they had to say about Love heading into this season:
Love has been undersold by his circumstances. To Cleveland, he is a shooter first and foremost—an accessory to the creative endeavors of LeBron James and, to this point, Kyrie Irving. To most any other team, Love could be something else entirely. He’s a shooter, to be sure, but also an effective passer, a post threat, and the kind of complete offensive player who could work as a fulcrum. Everything a team runs could swing on his abilities if it so chooses. It’s hardly Love’s fault that a team with the best player in the world did not.
That Love gives his team the choice is just part of what makes him interesting. Teams with clearly better options can lean on Love to stretch the floor, as the Cavs do, while working his periodic post-ups. What seemed an awkward fit at first has since become comfortable. Love is a more reliable spot-up shooter than when he first arrived in Cleveland, and better equipped to pick his spots. Those teams without first-rate alternatives could instead stretch Love’s game as needed – potentially doubling his assists while varying (and ramping up) his touches. Twice has Love averaged better than 26 points a game. There’s little reason to think he couldn’t do so again.
For the most part, this is a fairly accurate and fair assessment for Love and his game. It is interesting to see that Love’s status in these rankings wasn’t raised more as a result of Thomas missing time, to counter Thomas being lowered for his injury.
I think there’s a fairly good chance that Love far surpasses expectations. Both with the absence of Thomas, as well as a mechanism to get Thomas looks once he does return to the lineup. Last season Love had one of his most complete seasons of his career. His production per 100 possessions resembled his best seasons in Minnesota and his defensive numbers were solid overall. Coming into this year with an understanding that he is going to need to be a bigger part of this team should set him up for one of the best seasons of his career.