It's the first round of the playoffs, so the NBA award season rambles on. Thursday afternoon, the Minnesota Timberwolves held a press conference to honor All-Star forward Kevin Love, this season's Most Improved Player. Love had an amazing season, averaging 20.2 ppg (with terrific shooting percentages across the board) and a league-leading 15.2 rpg, and he deserves recognition for his accomplishments.
Unfortunately, Most Improved Player might not be the best honor. As Kelly Dwyer noted in his case for Derrick Rose as MIP, Love saw his per-minute numbers rise significantly this year. On the other hand, his per-game stats shot up primarily because of a jump in minutes from 28.6 per game to 35.8. He had a great season, no doubt. But he also benefited because MIP is perhaps the most nebulously defined award of all. It could easily go to a star who becomes a superstar, a solid player who becomes a star, an end-of-the-bench guy who becomes a rotation player, etc.
In fact, most of the players who finished behind Love in MIP voting would have been perfectly acceptable winners.
Second-place finisher LaMarcus Aldridge became a legitimate star for a Blazers team in desperate need of an on-court leader following Brandon Roy's knee problems. Third-place Dorell Wright joined the Warriors and promptly became a quality 3-point shooter capable of shouldering a too-heavy load of minutes. Fourth-place Derrick Rose figured out how to get to the line more often and turned from a young star to an All-NBA talent and likely MVP. The list goes on, from Kris Humphries to Kyle Lowry to Russell Westbrook.
Still, hazy award definition issues aside, Love deserves recognition for the way he played for the NBA's worst team this season. His contributions rarely translated to wins, but he had a terrific season and firmly established himself as the league's top rebounder. Give him some form of hardware, even if no one can agree on exactly what this trophy means.