Kevin Love is an all-star again, and while there have been worse all-star selections historically, there have been multiple more deserving candidates in the East this season. His face averages of 18.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game are at an all-star level, but his actual impact on Cleveland is not, and one could argue the Cavaliers would be better with a role player in Love’s position based on just how awful Love’s defense has been.
The fact that one can play on a Cavaliers team in a weak Eastern Conference with LeBron James for 28 minutes per game, not to mention Jae Crowder, Tristan Thompson, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, and other talented players, and have a line-up rating of -3.2 is disgraceful.
Despite their publicized struggles this season on and off the court, it is actually amazing that the Cavaliers have been able to post their 27-18 record. Love plays 28.5 minutes per game, and the Cavaliers in those 28.5 minutes per game get outscored by 3.2 points per 100 possessions.
To add perspective, if the Cavaliers only when Kevin Love was on the court were an NBA team, their net rating would rank 6th worst in the league. -3.2 is tied at 24th with the 17-29 Los Angeles Lakers, and the only teams that post worse marks are from 14-32 Atlanta, 18-29 Chicago, 14-32 Orlando, 17-30 Phoenix, and 13-33 Sacramento.
The way they have been able to play winning basketball en route to their record has been outscoring their opponents by 4.2 points when Love is off the court for the 19.5 minutes per game. If that were an NBA Team, it would rank 5th behind only Golden State, Houston, Toronto, and Boston – the conference powerhouses.
To say a player with this negative impact is either top 24 in the NBA or top 12 in the Eastern Conference is absurd. Plenty of great players miss the all-star game every year, and the fact that Love will be playing in this year’s is for shame. Here are some Eastern Conference players who got snubbed:
Honorable Mention: Kemba Walker and Ben Simmons
Walker has been fantastic this season with 21.8 points, 5.9 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game, but unfortunately for Walker, only front court players could be considered for Kevin Love’s all-star spot. Whether he deserved a berth over John Wall is a realistic discussion, however.
Ben Simmons is another player who has been fantastic this season. He is averaging 16.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. His defensive impact on point guards has been impressive for a 6’10, 230 pound player in a quick NBA. I just can’t argue that his offensive impact is all-star caliber.
His offensive rating of 102 is only 336th in the NBA out of 488 who have played a minute this season. Simmons has yet to hit a three pointer this season, and his inability to shoot has caused a 76ers team that should be running the floor offensively with young talent like Joel Embiid, Robert Covington, and Dario Saric and veterans like J.J. Redick to rate only 18th in offensive rating. Simmons will be an all-star next season, but the impact this season is just absent.
Drummond has been on a tear this season. He’s averaging 14.3 points, 15.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. His 99 defensive rating leads the league, and Drummond has showcased a newly effective free throw shot. The 38.9% from last season is up all the way to 62.9% this year.
Drummond is the main reason for Detroit being at all competitive after Reggie Jackson and Jon Leuer have missed most of the season with injuries, Stanley Johnson having yet to pan out, and his team’s ceiling being low from the get-go. Drummond has one all-star appearance from 2016, but is arguably more deserving this time around, and serves as the anti-Love with a league leading 99 defensive rating, and 3.0 defensive win shares.
Tatum’s per game numbers aren’t the sexiest: 13.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.0 steals in 31.0 minutes per game, but the impact has been unreal. Tatum, at just 19 years old, is 3rd in the NBA in three point percentage at 45.1%, has more win shares than Kevin Love with 5.2, is 4th in the NBA in defensive win shares (2.7), and is 5th in defensive rating (101.5).
Tatum has been relied on since Gordon Hayward went down with an injury game one, and he has responded. He is the third leading scorer and fourth leading minute-getter on the best team in the East, and one that is hyped up to possibly dethrone the Cavaliers this season.
Porter really should have made the team last season, when he finished the year with 9.4 win shares and 129 and 108 offensive and defensive ratings, but this season Porter is still among the top forwards in the East. He’s averaging 13.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.6 steals on 48.3% from the field, and 42.6% from three.
In kind of a reverse Kevin Love situation, the Wizards’ rating with Porter on the court of +5.1 per 100 possessions would be 4th in the NBA, while the off-court rating of -3.3 would be 6th worst in the NBA – and even worse than the Lakers’. Porter is the ultimate glue-man, and can do anything the Wizards ask him to do; a stark contrast from Kevin Love’s inability to play off of LeBron James effectively – something even low-end players like James Jones, Matthew Dellavedova, Daniel Gibson, and Norris Cole have been able to do effectively.
Middleton continues to function as an underrated wing in an NBA that has overrated and overpaid even semi-productive wings like Andre Roberson, Nicolas Batum, and Evan Turner. Middleton is posting 20.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game on 46.3% from the field. It’s amazing how Middleton can have more points on a higher field goal percentage playing in the back court than Love has playing in the front court.
Milwaukee’s +0.9 net rating with Middleton is not as powerful as their -8.4 net rating without him. -8.4 is worse than every single NBA team besides the Sacramento Kings, and this is a Milwaukee Bucks team with who I consider to be the 2nd best player in the East: Giannis Antetokounmpo.