Who would’ve thought that four years ago, when the Cavs completed their trade of Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love to form the NBA’s new “Big 3,” that Kevin Love would be the last man standing when it comes to wearing a Cavaliers uniform?
Around this time last summer, Kyrie Irving, the team’s number one overall pick from 2011 and 2016 Game 7 hero, informed the team of his desire to be traded. Just a year removed from winning a championship, teammates and fans alike were stunned once the news got out.
Over the past four seasons with the Cavs, Love has averaged 19.7 PPG and 11.5 RPG and has a .38 3P% as the number two and three options playing behind LeBron James and/or Kyrie Irving. Pretty decent numbers for a secondary option and when you factor in that the Cavs were one of only a few teams to have three players all average 20 PPG at the same time at any point in the season over the past four years, it’s clear that Love can hold his own.
Love caught a lot of negative attention from Cavs fans for perceived poor play, but the man went from being the franchise player and number one scoring option to the third option on a team that had championship aspirations. As that third option, Love still managed to average 18.3 PPG and 10.2 RPG while shooting 39% from three in his two All-Star seasons in Cleveland. Per 36 minutes, Love averaged almost 23 PPG and 12 RPG and a .415 3P% last season alone.
With the departure of both James and Irving over the past 12 months, some fans want the Cavs to keep Love and make him a franchise player once again while other fans think the team should just unload its assets and tank, so the Cavs can get back to national prominence sooner.
Both points are valid, and each scenario has their own set of pros and cons, but with a team that features a 17 PPG scorer (Rodney Hood), a 15 PPG scorer (Jordan Clarkson), a veteran with playoff experience (George Hill), the number eight pick in this year’s draft and two young players with promise in Cedi Osman and Larry Nance Jr. doesn’t sound like a bad team. Allowing Love to get back to his Minnesota days can unlock the potential this team may have while letting the team gel without the media distractions that James may bring.
Love has been rumored to be in multiple trades during the course of his career in Cleveland and, despite none of them actually happening, Love has always been a consummate pro and never let any negative feelings play out for the public.
Simply put, Love does not have much trade value, if any. If you are the GM of another team, would you really want Love? Yes, his career averages are great, but the Cavs have usually won in spite of his underwhelming performances in the playoffs that only get worse once the finals come around, save for the 2018 Finals when Love averaged 20 PPG and actually looked like a five-time All-Star.
Plus, Love has already stated multiple times that he would like to stay in Cleveland, even without a player like James. For those that are ready to drop Love altogether, you might just be stuck with him regardless. With only one year on his contract for $24.1 million left and a player option for $25.6 million the second year, he might be gone soon anyway.
Love has not had many notable players, if any, to play with during his time in Minnesota. Even though King James isn’t a member of the Cavs anymore, Love can do some damage with this Cavs roster. In Love’s last four season with the Timberwolves, he averaged 23.5 PPG and 13.7 RPG, including about four offensive rebounds per game, and made three All-Star appearances. His 3.0 APG could see a slight increase with names like Hood, Clarkson and an additional shooter.
Love does his best work when he is able to post up on either side of the elbow. From there, he is more than capable of getting a shot off using a hook shot, a mid-range jumper or drawing a foul to head to the free throw line where he has been a .842% shooter in his four seasons in Cleveland. Love can also use pick-and-pop plays with slashers like Clarkson and Collin Sexton to create scoring opportunities for them or use his range to shoot three-pointers over bigs that are uncomfortable defending that far away from the paint or unwilling to close out on Love’s shot.
Considering that James has departed for a second time, sticking with Love and developing the younger players on the roster is not such a bad idea. Fans, understandably, want to get back to prominence, but going from a four-time defending division champion to bottoming out may do more harm to the psyche of Cavs fans than good.
In the Eastern Conference, you never know who might fill out the number 5-8 spots. Not many people are pegging the Cavs to succeed much next year, but don’t be surprised if you look up and see the Cavs pushing for a playoff spot come next spring.