The Cavaliers absolutely ruined the Grizzlies during their home opener on Wednesday night with Kevin Love leading the way, and LeBron James indicated that this level of involvement could be the norm, not the exception moving forward.
James told Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com that Kevin Love will be the focal point of the offense this season, which is refreshing in a number of ways.
First off, LeBron spent most of last season kind of passive-aggressively sniping at Love which clearly didn't really take as a leadership strategy. Pumping your teammates up goes a long way, and Love is more than capable of handling a huge role in an offense.
Second, it makes sense for him to be a focal point in the offense, at least in the regular season. LeBron James is a terror as a cutter off the ball when he wants to be, Kyrie can be deadly running to the soft spots along the three point line to bomb away and Love is more than capable of finding them. Love's game fits so well within a "system," and when the Cavaliers have had decent offensive personnel, it's showed.
Love can rebound with the best of them, and using him as the screener in the pick and roll more often has put him in position to grab a few more offensive rebounds than last year, and it's showing. Standing on the wing spacing for three is helpful, but it also puts him in offensive rebounding no-man's land. He looks healthy and he's extending more possessions than he was last season.
Love is excelling at the little things so far, making hard cuts to the rim, slipping screens when the opportunity presents itself, and developing a pretty killer dribble handoff game with Mo Williams that makes the defense pick its poison among the two deadly shooters. If they run those actions with Kyrie Irving in Williams places, we may actually see defenses cry on the court.
He looks healthy, and it's worth noting that his game fell apart on the second half of just about every back-to-back last year. Against one of the league's most physical teams, Love held up and looked fresher than anyone on the Grizzlies during their lethargic effort.
The team is running actual NBA sets this year, which has been really helpful for a skill player like Love. They've run pindown screens from Mozgov to spring him for three, and they've also run a few screens for him that simply allow Love deep post position. He's done a great job of sealing off his man in the first two games, and he just finished more successfully against the Grizzlies.
In general, the Cavaliers are putting Love in a position to succeed, and it worked on Tuesday.
This chart is encouraging, and it's worth noting that only one bucket at the rim came from a traditional post-up. Love is certainly a fine post-up player, but getting him the ball in positions to do damage right away are going to be much more effective than tossing him the ball and watching him awkwardly back down his defender.
Obviously, this is all just two games. LeBron could be blowing smoke and Love could be relegated to Ryan Anderson duty again. But the sets they're running, the emphasis on LeBron's workload reduction and Kyrie Irving's recovery from injury may have combined to force this Cavaliers team to consider how to best use Kevin Love, and that can only bode well for the future.
Also, that hair man. I freaking love it.