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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Kevin Love Could Join Exclusive 20-15 Club

Only eight players in NBA history have averaged at least 20 points and 15 rebounds per game in a season and all of them are in the Hall of Fame: Wilt Chamberlain (13), Bob Pettit (8), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (4), Elgin Baylor (4), Walt Bellamy (4), Elvin Hayes (4), Moses Malone (2) and Bob McAdoo (1). If he can keep up his current pace, Kevin Love will be next on that list. Love is currently averaging 20.8 points per game and 15.5 rebounds per game — the highest average since Dennis Rodman’s 16.05 per game in 1996-97.

Love was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008, but was immediately traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for fellow 2008 draft pick O.J. Mayo. The Timberwolves definitely got the better end of this deal; Mayo’s first three years have produced a healthy 17.2 points per game, but that’s really it. He’s probably never going to be as famous for his play as he is for his one-year stint at USC.

Love, on the other hand, has seen his production rise incrementally each season — from 11 points and nine rebounds to 14 points and 11 rebounds to the historic pace he’s on this year. He’s got as many single-digit rebound games this season (5) as he does games with at least 20 boards. In what was probably his best game this season, on Nov. 12 against the Knicks, Love put up 31 points and brought down 31 rebounds — talk about glass cleaning.

The first man in NBA history to accomplish the feat was Bob Pettit in the 1955-56 season. The most recent such season was recorded by Moses Malone in the 1982-83 season — that’s five years before the 22-year-old Love was born. The gold standard of course is Chamberlain. He began his NBA career with eight-straight seasons with averages of at least 30 points and 20 rebounds, then four-straight 20-20 years, followed by two straight 20-18 years. He averaged at least 20 and 15 in all but his final two seasons.

Love — or anyone else — is never going to come close to beating that streak, but he doesn’t have to. McAdoo only had one such season and Moses Malone only had two. Those two were obviously defined by more than just those seasons, but the exclusivity of the group illustrates just how impressive doing it once is. 

Honestly, Love may not even join this group this season. He’s hovering right above the 20-15 averages, so any dip in production could cost him, but he has remained relatively consistent over the second-halves of his first two seasons. Love may never make the Hall of Fame — though adding his name to the 20-15 list would seem to make it likely — but he definitely should be getting more attention for what he’s doing this year. The problem is he’s doing all this for the 6-23 Timberwolves.

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images



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