Love Remains One of the Best Backup Centers in the NBA


When Miami signed Kevin Love in the buyout market a year ago, nobody could’ve predicted that it would end up becoming the most impactful buyout acquisition in the history of the franchise.

The addition of Love was a season-altering move with the veteran emerging as a key contributor in the Heat’s run to the Finals last season— starting 18 playoff games and shooting 38% from three.

The 35-year-old is in a new role for Miami this season, bringing much-needed stability to their backup center spot.

Miami’s biggest issue in previous seasons has been surviving the minutes when Bam Adebayo goes to the bench. Dewayne Dedmon and Cody Zeller combined for a -149 plus/minus last season. Love is solving that problem for the Heat this year.

With Love on the floor and Adebayo off, the Heat have a +8.67 net rating in 406 minutes with a 124.2 offensive rating. Miami has a +2.8 plus/minus with Love on the court this season.

Love has rejuvenated his career in Miami by leading the Heat in estimated plus/minus. He is also having a career year in several areas with career highs in rim and paint field-goal percentage along while averaging the lowest turnover percentage in his 16-year career.

Love is averaging 13.2 points per game in January on 56.5% from the field and he’s done most of his work on the inside. He’s shooting 76.2% from less than eight feet this month and 81.8% while inside the restricted area. Love is shooting 75.9% from within eight feet on the season.

The gravity he creates, ability to attack closeouts, outlet passing and finishing gives Miami a dynamic at the backup five that they simply have not had in recent years.

Love is shooting just 28.6% from three so far this month but is showing that his impact goes beyond knocking down threes.

He’s turned himself into an elite level role player who has helped keep the Heat afloat while its stars have all missed extended time this season.

Love is Miami’s best rebounder leading the team in both rebounding and defensive rebounding rate. He’s also been an impactful defender this season. Miami holds a 110.8 defensive rating with Love on the floor while he is in the midst of the best defensive season of his career according to estimated defensive plus/minus.

Love is currently holding opponents to shooting -3.2% less than expected from less than 10 feet and is one of the better post-up defenders in the league, allowing just 0.63 points per possession. He’s held up well on that end of the floor when in recent years when Adebayo goes out of the game, the defense falls off entirely.

When Miami signed Love last season, it was seen as a good fit. They needed a bigger body to stretch the floor and he’s provided that. But this level of play just wasn’t expected from a guy who is nearing the end of his career.

Not only has Love solved Miami’s backup center problem— he’s been one of the best in the entire league.

About Frankie Richetti

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