Love continues impressive progression

January, 29, 2009
01/29/09
8:55
AM ET
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 28
HIGHLIGHTS
Kevin Durant, Thunder: 35 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks against the Grizzlies.
Devin Harris, Nets: 25 points (10-12 FT), 10 assists (1 turnover), 3 steals versus Toronto.
Rasheed Wallace, Pistons:25 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals, two 3-pointers at Minnesota.
LOWLIGHTS
Jamal Crawford, Warriors: 3 points (1-6 FG), one assist, 4 turnovers in 23 minutes at Dallas.
Monta Ellis, Warriors: 7 points (2-11 FG), 2 rebounds, 3 assists in 25 minutes against the Mavericks.
James Posey, Hornets: Missed 12 of 13 field-goal attempts, including all six 3-pointers against Denver.
When you consider how much heat the Timberwolves have been taking all season for turning O.J. Mayo into Kevin Love on draft night, it becomes pretty interesting to consider just how good Love has been of late. In his past five games, for instance, in just 25.6 minutes per game, he is averaging 14.2 points and 9.2 rebounds. On Wednesday night against the Pistons, Love had 17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and zero turnovers in 26 minutes.

Of course, it's probably no coincidence that Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess both had extremely good statistical nights, too. Minnesota has a lot of good talent on its front line, but no one who is a defensive stalwart. The combination of Love and Al Jefferson -- the Wolves' two most talented frontcourt players -- is particularly problematic because neither has the size to deal with the likes of Rasheed Wallace in the paint. That issue is probably Love's biggest shortcoming, but beyond that, there is a lot to like right now.

What is most encouraging about Love is how good he has been in January in comparison to how awful he had looked early in the season. If you looked at his season numbers at the end of December, you would have noticed that he was shooting worse than 40 percent from the floor, and that rebounding seemed to be the only thing he could do well. For the month of January, however, Love is averaging a double-double in just 23.1 minutes per game. And he's doing it on a team that is 10-3 during that stretch. In half of their games this month, Love has led the Wolves in rebounding. He has also improved his shooting tremendously, hitting on 53.6 percent for the month.

All of this makes him a really terrific fantasy player right now. But if you are looking toward next season, specifically in keeper leagues, Love is looking like a real stud. If you figure him for 33 or so minutes per game next season, you could be looking at a guy who puts up 14 points and 12 rebounds per game. Assuming he shoots 50 percent, he could end up being drafted in the fourth or fifth round, and that's without even improving from the player he is now. Imagine if he adds a 3-point shot? We could be looking at the evolutionary Brad Miller, folks, and as far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out on the Love-versus-Mayo debate.

Under the Boards

It appears that the Sixers' Samuel Dalembert has emerged from his season-long mediocrity and is starting to, you know, play well again. The scoring is still taking its time coming around, but after putting up 13 rebounds, four blocks and three steals against the Rockets on Wednesday night, he's averaging 11.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game in his past five games. … Mike Conley's nine assists against the Thunder were a season high. Yes, it was an overtime game. Yes, it was against the Thunder, but Conley is playing better of late and may be turning the corner in terms of being a legitimate starting point guard. … T.J. Ford had 34 points last night against the Bucks on 14-for-21 shooting, and I know this sounds crazy to say about someone who had a line like that, but overall, he had a disappointing fantasy night. Sure, he was great in scoring and field goal percentage, but chances are those categories are not the reasons you drafted Ford. He had just three assists to go along with five turnovers and didn't make a 3-pointer. I'm not complaining, mind you; I'm happy to get anything out of Ford at this point, but for him to be averaging only 4.3 assists to 2.6 turnovers for the month of January is particularly disappointing. … I'm extremely impressed with the 21 points, 11 rebounds and four assists that the Kings' Jason Thompson put up in a blowout loss to the Celtics on Wednesday. I did not expect him to perform well, but to lead the team in rebounding and come pretty close to leading the Kings in points and assists, too, is fantastic stuff. … Eddie House is on fire right now, but don't go crazy and pick him up. Twenty-two 3-pointers during a four-game stretch is impressive, but he doesn't provide anything else, and in one of those games he put up a big zero in the points column. In very deep leagues, his 1.8 3s per game certainly have some value, but beyond that, he's not a viable fantasy option.

Seth Landman is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.

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