Love Remains Key Cog for Cleveland


Cleveland is a blue-collar city, through and through. You want to be something in Cleveland? You’re going to have to outwork everyone. Nothing is given to you, not even to its sports teams. Cleveland is infamous for its bad luck when it comes to sports. That’s why the Cavaliers’ title in 2016 was so huge for this city.

Now, the year is 2019, and LeBron is flourishing in his 2nd season with the Lakers alongside his best partner in crime (Anthony Davis) since Kyrie abandoned ship and became a Celtic. Last season, the Cavs were the worst defensive team in NBA history. JR Smith was exiled from the team, for almost the entire year. Tyronn Lue was fired six games into the season. It was a living nightmare for everyone involved.

Looking at the rebuilding Cavaliers this season, two names particularly stick out: Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. The duo only managed to play nine games together last season because of nagging injuries. They are the only two players who have stuck with the Cavs from the 2016 title through now. Kevin and Tristan had specific roles during LeBron’s 2nd reign in Cleveland. Love was on the floor for spacing, Thompson for rebounding and screening. Things are different this season.

The Cavaliers’ two big men are the offensive hub for Cleveland this season, but when you look closer, you see Love is unlocking everything for this young team. Kevin Love is well known for his shooting abilities. He spaces the floor, giving his teammates plenty more room to do their work. Plus, beware of his pump fake… it’s deadly! The reason why he’s so hard to defend, though, is because of the damage he can do down low. Put a smaller guy on him, and Love will bang with him in the paint. Double him, and he’ll display his very underrated passing abilities to find the open man. Oh, did you know that Kevin Love is 2nd in the NBA in rebounding this season?

The Cavs are in a developmental phase right now. It’s the reason why they hired a legendary college coach in John Beilein to captain this squad. However, nearly 60% of this roster is 26 years old or older. Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love lead the team in minutes. Cleveland’s veterans could be traded for more picks and/or intriguing young players. Kevin Love knows all about the trade rumors, and somehow he’s still here… but why is a 31-year-old, injury-prone player still on this team eating up 30+ minutes a game, and over a quarter of Cleveland’s salary cap? Experience.

Actually, scratch that: good experience.

Not only does Kevin Love have plenty to offer, but he is giving plenty of it each game as well by helping the Cavs stay in competitive games. They’ve been within seven points of their opponents in the 4th quarter at some moment of every game so far this season. This has allowed each member of the Cavs’ young core (minus the injured Dylan Windler, of course) to step up in moments that truly matter, and make big plays.

“You want them to play in meaningful games,” newly-extended GM, Koby Altman, pointed out in an interview with Terry Pluto. “…all of our games have been competitive. Our veterans are helping us on the court and teaching at the same time.”

Kevin Love knows how important this is. Love spent the first six seasons of his career on lowly Timberwolves teams, never once making the playoffs. He was never surrounded with good talent. His one responsibility was to get buckets, because he was really the only one who could on a night-to-night basis. Volume scoring became his specialty.

When he was traded to Cleveland, however, Love instantly became the 3rd offensive option on the team. The Cavs had a structured offense, where Kyrie Irving and LeBron James took turns dominating the possession with role players all around them, doing their part. Kevin Love found out the long and hard way how to contribute to a team in a winning manner. After a lot of adjustment to his game, Love was a key cog to the Cavaliers’ championship team in 2016. Koby Altman doesn’t want the team’s young players to have to go through years of losing, and then suddenly make the difficult shift to contributing to a competitive team. The team knows who their core is: Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Cedi Osman, Kevin Porter Jr., and Dylan Windler. Why wait for them to develop? Their evolution starts now.

Despite being the best player on his team, Kevin Love is posting the 3rd lowest usage % of his career. He is taking the least amount of field goal attempts per game since his first two seasons in the league. The 31-year-old is doing enough to lift his team up, but he’s playing his role in a system that allows the youngsters to experiment and gain experience. Good experience. Winning experience. It’s invaluable to their development. When Kevin Love signed his four-year extension with the Cavs the same summer that LeBron left, he knew he was in it for the long run. He has his championship ring, and knows that he was a big piece in that 2016 title run. Now, Love wants to be a part of building something special in Cleveland.

Kevin grew up in a town eight miles away from Portland. The Portland Trail Blazers always seem to be one piece away from title contention, and Kevin Love’s name has been linked with them countless times in trade rumors. All Love would have to do is give Koby Altman the green light, and he’d be traded in no time… but that’s not what he wants. Yes, the nearly seven-foot-tall model sticks out like a sore thumb in the blue-collar city of Cleveland, but that doesn’t matter to him. Right now, Kevin is right where he wants to be. He is home.

About Brayden Todd

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