It’s not a surprise, and it’s about to become official on Thursday.
According to the Associated Press, on Thursday Minnesota’s Kevin Love will be named the NBA’s Most Improved Player.
Love averaged an impressive 20.2 points and 15.2 rebounds per game this season. He went from being a sixth man for large stretches of last season to a guy the Wolves need to build around.
What makes me most happy is that he actually improved — often this award goes to a guy who just does what he does but do to circumstance gets a bump in minutes (inflating his numbers). And Love did play 7 more minutes a game this season.
But his shooting percentage jumped 20 points to 47 percent overall and he got to the line more often too, jumping his True Shooting Percentage (which includes all points scored) to 59.3 percent.
Then there is the rebounding — he grabbed 23.6 percent of the available rebounds when he was on the floor (third in the league), and 34.2 percent of the defensive rebounds.
That fueled the double-double streak that got him noticed.
What was amazing was early in the season when Kurt Rambis did not recognize what he had and benched Love for long stretches and key moments. He kept being frustrated with Love for what he is not (and he is not a great defender by anyone’s definition). But what he does he does very, very well. He rebounds, he can outlet the ball, and the man is a big who can score inside and also shot 41 percent from three this season. He is one of the most fundamentally sound big men in the game.
This is a good fit. And while at times in the past this award has been the kiss of death (Aaron Brooks, Bobby Simmons) it will not be in this case. You just have that feeling he is only getting better.
The Knicks are chasing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. New York will reportedly get a meeting with Kawhi Leonard.
But Irving appears headed to the Nets, and Durant might follow. Leonard appears to favor the Raptors in a two-team race with the Clippers.
Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
New York still believes it’s in the hunt for Kawhi Leonard, Irving and Durant. But, according to a source, the Knicks will punt their $70 million-plus in cap space if they can’t land one of those Tier A free agents.
This plan would require patience Knicks owner James Dolan has rarely shown. The Knicks have missed the playoffs six straight years. Twice during that span – including last season – they posted their worst record in franchise history (17-65). Dolan publicly proclaimed confidence New York would sign major free agents this summer.
He’d really allow the Knicks to delay winning even further?
New York is positioned to wait until 2020 free agency (though Joakim Noah‘s cap hit will remain on the books after an avoidable error). R.J. Barrett and Kevin Knox will still be on relatively cheap rookie-scale contracts. As a second-round pick, Mitchell Robinson is even lower-paid. If they sign players to only one-year contracts this offseason, the Knicks will once again have massive cap room.
But good players generally want multi-year deals. So, New York would be choosing among a far more limited pool of free agents. Another gloomy season would likely await.
And then the 2020 free-agent class looks weak. Especially with Anthony Davis already on the Lakers, there probably won’t be an attainable superstar for the Knicks. There might not even be an attainable star.
Then what? Sacrifice the 2020-21 season to gear up for 2021 free agency? Maybe Barrett, Knox and Robinson develop and send New York on a different track, but that’s far from assured.
The genius of this plan is it allows Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry to keep their jobs while the team continues to stink. There would be no expectations of winning anytime soon – as long as Dolan abides.
Has Kyrie Irving been in contact with the Boston Celtics about his free agency? We have reports that say that Irving has “ghosted” the Celtics… and of course we have counter reports that say just the opposite.
It’s hard to believe anything that swirls around Irving, one of the more enigmatic and tiring personalities in the NBA. At the very least, Irving has appeared to send signals that he is looking to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Chief among them being that Irving recently fired his longtime representation and signed with Roc Nation, which has a close partnership with the Brooklyn front office.
Boston has had a hard time getting free agents to come to play for the franchise, and that’s before they had a standing beef with Klutch Sports. According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, one of our Irving’s problems with the Celtics was that he simply didn’t like living in Boston.
“Kyrie Irving didn’t like Boston. I’ve been told this by many people. He didn’t like living in Boston — he just didn’t. By the end he had issues with Brad, by the end he had issues with Danny… by the end he had issues with pretty much all of us.”
We have heard rumors that things started to go wrong in the Celtics locker room when coach Brad Stevens seemed to openly favor injured star Gordon Hayward a bit too heavily (Hayward played for Stevens at Butler in college).
Meanwhile, Danny Ainge has the propensity to rub folks the wrong way. He makes whatever decision he thinks is the best from a basketball perspective, relationships be damned. We learned that with the Isaiah Thomas trade.
At this juncture it seems unlikely that Irving will return to the Celtics. Meanwhile, we will probably continue to get stories like this out of Boston.
With Golden State laid low by injuries (and maybe a defection), Houston should be the team stepping to the front of the line saying “it’s our turn” in the West.
Instead, the Rockets two stars — James Harden and Chris Paul — are feuding, ownership is turning coach Mike D’Antoni into a lame duck, and everyone without a fantastic beard hears their name in trade rumors.
The Harden/Paul feud is real, but Paul tried to downplay it at a charity event in Los Angeles over the weekend, denying a trade request and saying he was happy to be in Houston, as reported by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
“I never asked for a trade,” Paul said. “I never demanded a trade.”
“I’ll be in Houston,” Paul said. “I’m happy about that. I’m very happy about that. I’m good.”
The report goes on to note Paul was asked if he had to work things out with Harden and he kind of danced around that question but said the issues were around a season-ending loss. Certainly, two straight years of being bounced by the Warriors has the Rockets frustrated. However, there is also a style issue: Harden dominates the ball and likes to work in isolation, Chris Paul can’t be as efficient that way anymore and prefers a more fluid offense (and more pick-and-roll for him). Coach D’Antoni gives a lot of leeway to Harden.
Harden and Paul need to work their issues out because Paul is nearly untradable (unless the Rockets want to throw in a sweetener with a pick or young player). Paul still has value on the court — a master floor general he averaged 15.6 points and 8.2 assists per game last season — but he is 34-years-old, lost a step last season, has an injury history (he played 58 games last season), and is owed $124 million fully guaranteed over the next three seasons. There simply are not teams interested in trading for Paul.
Houston could head into next season the favorites in the West. Part of that depends on how things shake out in free agency (does Kawhi Leonard come West, for example), but a lot of it is just the Rockets getting their act together. I expect Paul and Harden to figure things out, at least well enough to make it work. Mostly because they don’t have a choice. Paul isn’t going anywhere, whether he asked to leave or not.
Zion Williamson is finally, officially a New Orleans Pelican. David Griffin and the Pelicans front office selected Williamson No. 1 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft on Thursday.
Now, we just have to wait for the Anthony Davis trade to be official and we can put this whole thing behind us.
Meanwhile, Williamson has been celebrating. According to TMZ, he had a big pizza party with his friends after the draft in New York. Williamson has since reported to the team in Louisiana, where he’s already saying all the right things to the media.
Speaking during a team event, Williamson said that something just hit him and that it was a gut feeling that he was glad to be in New Orleans.
“This is my home,” said Williamson. “I’m ready to stay here.”
Williamson could also be seen getting recommendations for the excellent cuisine in the Bayou.
As No. 1 overall picks and future franchise cornerstones go, Williamson already seems to have the temperament of a guy who’s willing to take over from the last one in Davis.