It is no secret that the Cavaliers have been struggling as of late. After losing to the Spurs last week and getting blown out by the Warriors at the Q Monday night, the Cavs have been getting criticized by the media all week. A particular player on the Cavs, Kevin Love, has been getting a lot of individual criticism for his play. Love has not been playing very well and everyone has expected more from him. In Monday night’s loss to the Warriors, Love tallied only 3 points. So, the burning question is what’s going on with Kevin Love over hte past month or so?

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Some speculate that Love’s inefficiency is just a slump, but, it is true that his production has not been great ever since he was traded to Cleveland. If Love is indeed just having a rough stretch of games, his numbers will need to significantly bump up to be worth the thick contract he was granted this past summer. Could it be that Kyrie Irving’s return to the lineup has taken away from Love’s shot attempts and become a distraction? Love averaged 17.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 2.3 three-pointers made on 43.4% shooting from the field and 37% from downtown prior to Irving’s return. According to and Basketball Reference, before last night’s 17-point, 18-rebound explosion against the Nets, Love was averaging 12.3 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.9 three-pointers made on 37.7% from the field and 35.6% from outside the arc with Kyrie Irving in the lineup. Although having another star in the lineup might slow Love’s production, Kyrie and Love proved they could coexist on the court together late last season.

Gregory Shamus | Getty Images

Gregory Shamus | Getty Images

Kevin Love, on paper, looks to be a perfect fit for the Cavs. A talented big man whose jump shot spreads the floor. He proved he can hit the boards hard in Minnesota, and although we do not see it as much, Love has the ability to score from the post. But, the number one thing that deflates Love’s value is his defense. It is as if he does not put forth any effort on the defensive side of the ball.

Watching the game Monday night against the Warriors, it was a straight up embarrassment on defense for Love. He had no chance defending Draymond Green and he looked especially lost on the Warriors’ pick and roll. If the Cavs end up in the Finals matched up against the Warriors, they simply may not be able to rely on Love to play valuable or extensive minutes due to the ball movement and his lack of rotating. The Cavs, with Love in the lineup, match up a lot better against the Spurs since LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t the best defender as well, but he’s got Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard to help him out on that end of the floor. As of right now, it is very clear that the Cavs have a minimal chance of beating either team in a seven-game series.

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Love’s specialty has always been getting to the low post and bullying his way into a 25-point, 14-rebound night while spreading the floor with a few three pointers. In the past season and a half, Love has sort of been drifting off to the perimeter to take more outside shots. This season specifically, there has been a concerted effort to get Love back in the post and run some of the Cavs’ offense through him. It’s worked well for Cleveland, but Irving’s return doesn’t mean that Love should stop going to work down there.

When this team was assembled, Irving, James, and Love were viewed as The Big Three. But realistically, what has this trio done to deserve the title? The Cavs are far too talented to be getting blown out on their home court. Nothing is certain, but, the chances of the Cavs representing the Eastern Conference in the Finals are high. As we all know, however, getting to the Finals is simply not satisfying enough. If the Cavs are going to have a legitimate shot at giving this starved city the championship it so deserves, Kevin Love needs to play at a high level.