Culture of Hoops

Square Peg in a Round Hole: The Kevin Love Problem

Image courtesy of Erik Drost/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Erik Drost/Flickr.

This is not recency bias. This is not hyperbole. This just is what it is. Kevin Love does not fit the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cavaliers do not fit Love. To be clear Love is still one of the better power forwards in the league and would be the best player on a majority of the league’s other teams. With that being said, he will never fit alongside this version of LeBron James and the Cavs.

On paper or NBA 2K a big three of Love, LeBron, and Kyrie Irving is a potent core to a championship team. Obviously that has not been the case. Yes the Cavs have reached the finals in both years Love has been on the team. But as anyone who has watched them play can tell you that has more to do with LeBron and Kyrie. If this had been two or three years ago maybe LeBron and Love could coincide as Chris Bosh was able to in Miami, but that just isn’t the case.

Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer detailed just how far Love has fallen since being traded to Cleveland. He has devolved from a maniacal force down low averaging 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists into another guy on the floor averaging 16.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists. The Monstars did not steal Love’s talent. No one stole Love’s talent, it’s just not being used properly.

The first two games of the Finals put that on full display. The Golden State Warriors exposed this at nausea throwing mismatch after mismatch Love’s way on defense. On offense Love cannot operate the way he would probably prefer, mixing in post ups with perimeter work. Instead he is being relegated to being a spot-up sniper for LeBron to kick out which is like buying an iPhone just to use iMessage. As Tjarks noted in his piece Love’s ideal lineup has a rim protector that takes attention away from him in the post and absorbs a double team to give him open jumpers—which is exactly what LeBron needs.

It is no secret that LeBron has begun the transition to the next phase of his career. He is now more of a traditional big man on offense accumulating a majority of his points down low. His three-point shot has vanished—shooting a career-low 30-percent—and the best possible supporting cast consists of a rim protector and three shooters. The Cavs used that blueprint for Game 3 with Love out due to a concussion and the result was a 30-point blowout victory.

Obviously Richard Jefferson is not better than Love, but a player of his skill set is a much better fit. Love does not hit threes at an elite enough level (36-percent) to be one of those shooters and he is light years away from being anything close to a rim protector (hence the absurd $82 million contract the team signed Tristan Thompson to in the offseason).

There is nothing left to do other than cut the cord on this project before it starts to get ugly. Love is already the frontrunner for the fall guy assuming the Warriors defeat the Cavs in a second consecutive Finals. Even if the Cavs somehow pull off the upset trading him in the offseason for a better piece–C.J. McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, or care package from the Boston Celtics to name a few options–should be top priority for Cavs GM David Griffin. If they try and ride it out Love’s trade for Andrew Wiggins is looking more and more like our generation’s version of the Kobe Bryant for Vlade Divac massacre in 1997. I don’t think I have to tell you which one Love is in that deal.

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