Beyond that, Love improved the passing dimension of his game last season, in part because of the chemistry he developed throwing outlet passes to Corey Brewer. He handed out assists more frequently per play than George Hill or Patty Mills. Among big men, only Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls had a better assist rate than Love.
Numbers don't support Love as a defensive liability
Even the biggest Love skeptic would concede his prowess as a scorer and rebounder -- right before bringing up the defensive end. Here's the thing: It's hard to find statistical support for the widespread notion that Love is a defensive turnstile.
It's possible to highlight stats that showcase Love's defensive shortcomings, particularly as a rim protector. New SportVU player-tracking data on NBA.com showed that last season opponents shot 57.4 percent when Love was within five feet of attempts near the rim, the league's fourth-worst rate among players who defended at least five rim attempts per game.
However, opponent shooting percentage tells only half of the story. Love's reluctance to contest shots also kept him out of foul trouble and opponents off the free throw line. His 1.8 fouls per 36 minutes were the fewest of any regular big man last season (no one else was below 2.0 per 36), and not coincidentally, the Timberwolves allowed the league's lowest rate of free throws per field goal attempt. The trade-off between not fouling and surrendering layups didn't always work out for Minnesota and former coach Rick Adelman encouraged his team to foul more frequently, but looking at opponent shooting percentages without context is unfair to Love.
There's also the matter of rebounding. For individual players, defensive rebounding is not as valuable as offensive rebounding because many defensive rebounds are discretionary -- another defender will get the rebound if one individual does not -- but it's still part of defense, and the Timberwolves have had a better defensive rebound percentage with Love on the court every season of his career. Last season, per NBA.com/Stats, they rebounded 75.3 percent of opponents' misses with Love and 72.4 percent when he was on the bench.
Add it up and ESPN's real plus-minus shows Love as an above-average defensive player, even for a big man. (Post players rate better on defense in plus-minus metrics as compared to perimeter players.) And despite playing Love with another poor rim protector in center Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota was average defensively last season.
Why Wolves haven't won
The biggest Love criticism isn't defense. It's his team's record.
"Love is so overrated," one NBA executive told Insider's Jeff Goodman last week. "He's never won."