This article appeared in The Wall Street Journal on April 12, 2014.
You don’t have to go far down the list of NBA scorers to find Kevin Love’s name. At least not when you’re looking at regular-season statistics. The playoffs, however, are a different matter.
When the regular season ends next week, Love, who has averaged 19.1 points per game in his career, will have missed the playoffs in each of his first six seasons. However, he still has a ways to go to match Tom Van Arsdale, who played 12 NBA seasons from 1965-1977 for six teams and never saw the postseason.
Typically, high-scoring players can carry their teams into the postseason, especially in the NBA where more than half the teams in the league make the playoffs. Since the league expanded to its current playoff format of eight teams per conference in 1983-84, 88.3% of players that finished in the top-four in scoring average played on teams that qualified for the postseason. For Love, who is currently fourth in scoring at 25.8 points per game, it would be the second time in three seasons he’s finished in the top-4 in scoring, only to miss the playoffs.
Of course, Love might be better known for his rebounding than his scoring. He has joined Swen Nater as the only two players in league history to have led the league in total rebounds at least once in their first six seasons and not make the postseason.
But it appears that Love won’t be the only prolific scorer missing the postseason party. If the Knicks, currently two games behind Atlanta entering Friday’s play, miss the playoffs, Carmelo Anthony, the league’s No. 2 scorer at 27.5 PPG, will join him. In contrast to Love, this would be the first time that Anthony will miss the postseason in his 11-year career.
(photo by KeithAllisonPhoto.com)