6. Kevin Love
It’s game seven of the 2016 NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors are down by three points, and they have the ball. The Warriors do what they always do in this situation–give Stephen Curry the ball, and switch him onto a lesser defender.
Since the Warriors are facing the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kevin Love is the target. Love, one of the most hated-on players in the entire NBA, isn’t exactly known for being able to defend perimeter players, much less the hardest one there is to guard.
Still, he locks Curry down. Twice, in the same possession. Curry can’t get anything over Love, and the Cavs get the ball back and hold on to complete the best comeback in Finals history. Without that play, does Kevin Love still get this high on this list?
He probably should. That defense on Curry wasn’t the first time Love played real defense–despite his reputation, he’s got a better defensive rating than any other rotation Cavalier and was second to only LeBron in defensive wins added.
Add that to Love’s 16 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game and you’ve got one hell of a player. Kyrie and LeBron might be the celebrated pair in Cleveland, but make no mistake–Kevin Love is crucial to how good the Cavaliers have been.
Next: Number Five