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Will Cavs Defense Suffer with Kevin Love?

Kevin Love’s defense seems to be the only thing that is really holding him back. Love has never been known to be a great defender even though he is a tremendous rebounder. He averaged a pedestrian 0.8 steals per game and an even worse 0.5 blocks per game in his first All Star season during 2010-11. Love played a total of 73 games during that season and finished with 45 total steals and 28 total blocks. A power forward usually does well in one or the other but the fact that Love is struggling in both categories is fairly worrisome. He was a lot better in the 2013-14 season, playing 77 games and recording 59 total steals and 35 total blocks, but not where the Cavaliers need him to be if they’re trying to make a deep playoff run.

{adinserter 2} A simple breakdown from basketball-reference.com shows that Love recorded 0 steals 32 times, 1-2 steals 43 times, and 3-4 steals 2 times. In terms of blocks, he had 50 games of 0 blocks, 25 games of 1-2 blocks, and 2 games of 3-4 blocks. According to player-tracking data on NBA.com, Kevin Love ranked 4th worst in Opponent’s Field Goal Percentage at the rim, allowing 57.4% shooting within 5 feet; He also allowed 9.1 field goal attempts under the rim per game, bad enough for 11th most in the league. His 1-on-1 defense isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. It’s mostly his help defense or lack thereof. When Love’s teammates have been beaten off the dribble or lose defenders, Love was not there on time to help out, resulting in a lot of layups and open shots.

A power forward or center usually commit around 3-5 fouls per game, but Kevin Love only averaged 1.8 fouls per game last season. That’s not to say he needs to foul out every game, but he has to become more assertive on the defensive end and make opposing players work for their baskets. In 2013-14, Love had 51 games of 1-2 fouls, 13 games of 3-4 fouls, 3 games of 5 fouls, and 10 games of no fouls at all. However, his unwillingness to contest shots and foul keeps opponents off the free throw line. His 1.8 fouls per game was ranked fewest amongst the league’s big men.

Other than Kevin Love, the Cleveland Cavaliers have big men Anderson Varejao (31 years old) and Brendan Haywood (34 years old), neither of whom have the major defensive impacts that is required for a Championship level team. Even power forward Tristan Thompson, who although he is a decent defensive player, is more offensive-minded. At this time, Cleveland’s management has not gone after any solid defensive-minded power forwards or centers. Needless to say, new Cavs head coach David Blatt has a lot of work to do in order to make Love and Thompson play solid interior defense alongside LeBron James, who can help both of them on the defensive end.

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