Has Kevin Love Found his Role?

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nba.com
nba.com

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been on some kind of a roll during their eight game winning streak. Over that span the Cavaliers are second in the league in offensive efficiency with a 113.8 rating and fourth in the league in defensive efficiency with a 98.6 rating. The Cavs have found their stride in large part because of the incredible play from the big three (James, Love, Irving). James has bumped up his game averages over this span to 24.8 PPG, 7.7 APG, 5.5 RPG and Irving has increased his averages to 20.8 PPG, 5.1 PPG, and 3.2 RPG. As for Kevin Love, his averages have increased significantly since the beginning of the season, too. Love has bumped up his numbers to 17.4 PPG, 10.0 RPG, and 2.1 APG and has registered a player efficiency rating of 18.15. On the surface, these numbers may not look too great, but, since Love is also playing with Irving and James these stats are very encouraging. Has Love finally found his role in the offense?

At the beginning of the season, Love looked extremely lost in the framework of the offense. The fact that the entire team didn’t know how to play with one another out of the gate, played a role in the early season struggles for Love. he 6-10 power forward was used to being the main scorer on some of those awful Timberwolves teams in Minnesota and had to learn how to sacrifice opportunities for the success of the squad, leading to a need for a mentality change. Love now has adopted that team-first mentality.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have played 20 games so far this season, during the first ten games Love averaged 16.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 2.0 APG; during this latest ten game span Love has averaged 18.1 PPG, 9.6 RPG, and 1.7 APG. Between the two 10 game stretches, Love has increased his PPG average by 1.4 points and increased his RPG average by 2.2 rebounds. Sure, the assists have decreased, but that’s because LeBron is the main facilitator while the big three are on the floor. These increases in his averages show Love’s improvement over the last ten games and show proof of his comfort within the offense. At the beginning of the season, Love’s stats seemed empty (not a major factor in the outcome of the game) but now he is figuring out his place/role on the team.

The Cavs have had a specific strategy to get Love involved during the eight game winning streak. The Cavs start the game by giving Love several post touches to get comfortable and then work to establish his offense from outside of the arc. This strategy has led to extreme scoring outbursts from Love in the first quarter. Love had 16 points in the first quarter against the Indiana Pacers (at home), 17 points in the first quarter against the Bucks (at home), and 17 in the first quarter against the Nets (on the road). Love’s field goal percentage in the first quarter is 57.0% compared to 37.6% in the other 3 quarters. With the opportunities Love is getting this season, his overall FG% now sits at 44.6% and 38.6% from behind the three point line which is outstanding for a stretch four.

Kevin has adopted the mentality of “taking what is given to you” this year. He is shooting more three pointers this season than in any other, especially from the right corner where he seems most comfortable. And his post game, which is not smooth to behold, has been getting results, because he is not forcing shots. Also, his pump fake has been incredibly effective and leads to easy baskets. All in all, Love has truly improved his efficiency since the start of the season and is now comfortable in the offense. That is huge for the success of the Cavaliers, finding that chemistry for every player on the team.

Kevin Love has found his role with the big three and the Cleveland Cavaliers. His role on this team is to be a sharp-shooting stretch four, be an efficient scorer in the post with minimal opportunities, and be a beast on the boards. Love has fully accepted his role on this Cavalier team and is all in on what the Cavaliers are trying to do, and that’s win a championship in Cleveland. As of late, there is no reason to believe they can’t achieve their goal.

– Gabe Cohn

@CSTGabe

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