Kevin Love isn’t phased by role as alpha dog
On Monday, Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star Kevin Love joined CBS Sports’ Bill Reiter on “Reiter’s Block” and discussed his expectations for the upcoming season. After being thrust into the role of the Cavs first option in the wake of LeBron James’ free agency decision, Love has widely been expected to try to put up numbers similar to his best seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he was also the first option.
However, while Love is expecting to “score at a high clip” as the Cavaliers try to supplant James’ 27.5 points per game, he’s more focused on being a facilitator than a scorer or even a rebounder.
Quote transcribed by CBS Sports‘ Colin Ward-Henninger:
“It’s not like I forgot how to play basketball. I can score the ball at a high clip,” Love said. “But I’m gonna do whatever’s asked of me out there. I don’t expect to be top-five in scoring like I was, or even top-five in rebounding like I was. I’m looking to make the right play — I’m not setting those as goals, stats.
“The only thing I really care about after sacrificing so much is the win column. Will there be times when I need to put up 25 or 30 points? Sure. Will there be times when I need to clean up the glass at a very high rate in certain games? Of course. But I’m gonna be looking a lot more to facilitate like I did in Minnesota.”
While Love averaged between 2.0-2.5 assists per game from the 2009-10 to the 2012-13 season, he also averaged between 2.0-2.5 assists per game in the first two seasons after he was traded to the Cavaliers. However, Love averaged 4.4 assists per game in the 2013-14, a career-year for Love that also saw him averaging 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.
That’s the level of facilitation that Love is hoping to get to and with the Cavaliers making it a point to use Love in his preferred spots, like the low-post and high-post/pinch-post.
Traditionally, James would primarily be the player that made plays from those spots on the court but with him gone, that leaves plenty of room — literally and figuratively — for Love to be a playmaker.
Players who are the best at reading the defense and knowing when to cut will be the biggest benefactors of Love’s passing ability.
Per NBA Advanced Stats, outside of James and Love there were only three Cavs who ranked in at least the 40th percentile on cuts last season. Kyle Korver (1.52 points per possession), Tristan Thompson (1.23 points per possession) and Larry Nance Jr. (1.22 points per possession). However, David Nwaba scored 1.52 points per possession on cuts (71st percentile) for the Chicago Bulls last season while Sam Dekker scored 1.40 points per possession (81st percentile) for the Los Angeles Lakers.
With passes from the posts often leading to shots for spot-up shooters too, the Cavaliers primary three-point threats (Korver, Hood, George Hill and Cedi Osman) will benefit from Love’s playmaking too.
For a team with a comparable amount of talent to the last Wolves team that Love anchored and players who can fit his playmaking style, his passing numbers could look a lot similar to they did in 2013-14.