Cavaliers

The Cavs Need All-Star Kevin Love

Kevin Love entered the 2016-2017 without the burden of validating the Andrew Wiggins trade; or fitting in; or the constant murmur of trade rumors. Instead he wrestled with a new weight on his shoulders; a WWE-style championship belt.

With his new found freedom, Love earned his first All-Star appearance since joining the Cavaliers. Prior to the All-Star break, Love averaged 20 points on 58.2 percent true-shooting percentage (43 percent on all field goals, 38 percent from three-point); his best marks as a Cavalier. Perhaps the biggest change was the fact that Love was using 26.5 percent of the team’s possessions when on the court, a full three percentage points better than at any other point as a Cavalier. Head Coach Ty Lue had told Love before the 2015-2016 playoffs, ‘Kevin, you got to be more aggressive. Tell LeBron, I’m a bad m—–f—– too, so throw me the ball.’ Love got the message.

But, as has happened too often in Love’s career, an injury detailed what was an incredible season. Love missed a month of action, and upon his return, the improved athleticism and aggressiveness that had spurred his early season dominance wasn’t there. This isn’t to blame Love, as injuries have a significant impact on a player’s ability to perform, but it certainly changed the dynamic of the Cavaliers and their offense. The sharp-shooting, foul-drawing power forward the Cavs had leaned on early in the season struggled to have the same impact, even as he used a similar number of possessions.

Taking a deeper dive, Love’s play began to decline even before he was forced to missed time due to surgery. Coach Lue mentioned that Love had dealt with the knee issue for some time, and a look at his overall numbers indicates a decline through January:

The good news it that Love’s rebounding has remained at elite levels, both offensively and defensively. He doesn’t rely on his athleticism as much as positioning, and can still impact a game in that capacity. But if the Cavaliers want to reach the levels they did last year, they need Love to get back to his All-Star levels. This team is not built to have an elite defense, and if their offense is not scoring at a high level, they’re going to struggle. The Cavaliers scored 1.18 points per possession with Kevin Love on the floor prior to the All-Star break, and only 1.12 post-break. They need that pre-break number if they want to repeat as champions.

The problem with the Cavaliers sweeping the Pacers in the first round (if you can find a problem, that is) is that we only have four games worth of data to evaluate. While it’s hard to remember after lackluster performances in Game 3 and Game 4, Love actually had a great series, by the numbers. He hit 41 percent of his threes and had a 53.7 percent free throw attempt rate (free throw attempts per field goal attempt) giving him an overall true shooting percentage of 61.2 percent. His usage is way down (20.5 percent) making his counting numbers look small, but he hit shots and got to the line a a high clip. With a player like Love, it isn’t always his personal contributions that are the measure of his impact, but how his gravity keeps other big men out of the lane and lets Kyrie Irving and LeBron James get to the rim. Against the Pacers, the Cavaliers scored 1.18 points per possession with Love on the court, identical to their rate prior to the All-Star break when Love was playing at a high level.

This isn’t to say that Kevin Love is back. Those last two games against the Pacers were a step back, and as the Cavs face the Raptors in the next round, they’ll need Love spacing the floor and keeping Serge Ibaka out of the lane. With Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker to defend Irving and James, Love will also need to contribute some volume scoring. But, we saw something out of Kevin Love early this season that we haven’t seen since he came to Cleveland. His return from injury has been slow, but if he is rounding into shape it gives the Cavaliers a weapon they’ll desperately need.

  • JNeids

    Hahaha look at Nom, trying to sneak in a Cavs post today 🙂

  • humboldt

    This is the equivalent of pushing out a press release at 4:59pm on a Friday

  • Jeff Nomina

    I thought about photoshopping a Browns jersey on love for the feature image just to trick people into clicking.

  • Saggy

    Who is this “Kevin Love” you speak of?

    Does he play quarterback?

  • chrisdottcomm

    HOW THE BROWNS DRAFT SHAPED KEVIN LOVE’S FUTURE; JEFF’S COLUMN.

  • chrisdottcomm

    Well…. actually…..

    https://youtu.be/7XKvY-IfAtk

  • humboldt

    THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT BROWNS DRAFT OF ALL TIME!!!1!: The Cavs Need All-Star Kevin Love

  • humboldt

    The best strategy would be to post a headline of “Grading the Browns draft”, publish the Kevin Love story in the text, and then type “Overall grade: B” at the end of the article so it’s legit
    https://media.giphy.com/media/3oriffF0Lt6ioJie08/giphy.gif

  • Jeff Nomina

    Kevin Love had a nice QUARTER BACK in game 2 when he threw a TOUCHDOWN PASS to LeBron James moving his OFFENSIVE LINE to a 118 rating.

  • humboldt

    The UCLA PRODUCT will need to BATTLE IN THE TRENCHES and provide a SPARQ to his team by being the FIRST DOWN on the offensive end

  • Pat Leonard

    So true… that one magnificent game from Kevin Love has me believing we could see All-Star Love from here on out… that version of Kevin Love is so freaking fun to watch.

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