Kevin Love Might Actually be Better Defensively than Offensively This Year

Kevin Love is probably going to be an All-Star. Advanced stats suggest he's actually not going to get there the way you might expect.

When you hear Kevin Love's name you probably think of a points-and-rebounds kind of guy who is typically a bad defender. He famously had his stop of Stephen Curry in Game 7, but otherwise, he's been an offensive-minded player for his whole career. By all accounts, that's continuing this year, right?

Not exactly. 

Kevin Love is actually having a pretty OK season defensively. 

Fine. You're right. He's still kind of terrible in the sense that he appears to be allergic to putting up a hand when someone is shooting against him. On the other hand, he rates middle of the pack or better in almost every defensive situation per Synergy Sports. That means that he's in the 50th percentile or better at defending pick and rolls, spot ups, post ups, isos, and screens. This admittedly doesn't seem possible, but Synergy crunches the data for every possession and every game. 

That data says that Kevin Love allows 0.828 points per possession in the 454 possessions he's faced. That's good for the 79th percentile in the entire NBA.

Ready for the real head-scratcher? He's only above average offensively when he spots up, comes off a screen, or cuts. 

Kevin Love, who's made millions from being a capable three-point shooter and a post-up monster, is in the 39th percentile of NBA players when it comes to how much he scores from the post. Think about that for a minute. It's not exactly the same as how likely he is to score, but the expected points from a Kevin Love post-up is notably lower than stalwart post players like Tristan Thompson, Rudy Gay, Brandon Bass, Devin Booker, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and even Emanuel Mudiay, the guy who put up one of the worst shooting seasons in NBA history last year. 

Here's how he breaks down offensively.


Source: Synergy Sports


It's not as impressive as you might expect. The spot up numbers are excellent because he's been having a solid year from beyond the arc. 38% isn't top in the league or anything, but before this laugh-out-loud terrible stretch he's had in January he was a force to be reckoned with. However, he's hit a whopping 26% of his threes this month (and only 32% overall!).

This is what a typical Kevin Love post up looks like these days.

Draymond Green is one of the league's best defenders, but Love doesn't even draw rim on this one. That's surprisingly common. As for the Kevin Love hook shot? He's taken a grand total of 33 this year. He has scored 27 points on those 33 possessions (including foul shots). 

Depending on your belief system, either the numbers don't lie or statistics are one of the three types of lies in the world. For Kevin Love, I'm leaning toward the numbers not lying. He's been productive on the stat sheet - he's still averaging a double-double after all - but he's taking a ton of shots and benefiting from uncontested rebounds. shows that Love is uncontested on about 32% of his rebounds, which is so far down on the list that I didn't even scroll to see how far down the list it was. 

The point is this: Kevin Love is having an OK season. He's not playing great on either side of the ball and should be facing criminal charges for how bad he's been in January offensively. He'll probably get into the All-Star Game because the frontcourt backups are probably Millsap, Embiid, and not really anybody else. He's just been surprisingly bad on offense (but still better than average) and surprisingly good on defense (notably above average). 

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