Even prior to the news that Kyrie Irving may not make his return to the NBA until January, perhaps no player was more primed for a breakout season than Kevin Love. While Love experienced several speed bumps in his inaugural season with the wine and gold, all signs point towards him returning to form as he enters his second year with the club.
Coming to terms with a reduced role, injuries and adjusting to a new environment in general all were factors in Love having a lackluster first season with the Cavs. But if you look at his numbers after the all star game, when his health was starting to no longer be an issue, he shot 44.5 percent from the floor and 40.9 percent from behind the arc. When Love had two days of rest he averaged 20.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Even in a reduced role in comparison to his days in Minnesota, the signs were there that there was a far more effective player than the one that was on display early in the year.
After the suspension of J.R. Smith in the playoffs, the Cavaliers appeared to have moved on to Iman Shumpert starting at the shooting guard position. While Shumpert isn't a consistent shooter or threat offensively, he can impact the game in many other ways. The extension of Shumpert and the lack of guaranteed money committed to Smith seem to signal a changing of the guard at the two position. If that change does occur, it means more shots become available for other members of the starting lineup, namely Love.
While one wouldn't want to tinker too much with a team that performed as well as the Cavs after the January trades, reassigning the shots Smith would have taken in the starting lineup to Love and bringing Smith's offense off the bench allows a more consistent attack from the Cavs without sacrificing anything from the starting lineup. In all likelihood it may even be an improvement on an already stellar offense when you look at what Kevin Love can bring to the table. Love didn't look to other teams to solve his issues with how he fit with the Cavs, he went to David Blatt and LeBron James to hash things out. The reports about both meetings state that the discussions were frank and by the end of the lengthy meetings all parties saw eye to eye. While what that truly means and how it will be applied to the game is still to be seen, it would be hard to imagine that the result of those talks was for Love to remain in his identical role for another season.
When it comes to power forwards there are few that can boast a more complete offensive repertoire than Love. With an ability to operate in the low and high posts; from the top of the key; from behind the 3-point line and to operate as a quarterback of the offense at times with his passing ability leave little to be desired. It's hard to fathom that a player as gifted as Love, with a world renown set of skills that is still widely considered to be one of the leagues best won't bounce back to his previous form, even if it's in a reduced role.
All of the above points indicate that Love should have more impact next season than he did in his first year. But that would ignore the reality that Irving may not be in the Cavs lineup for the first month or two of the 2015-2016 season. With Irving out of the lineup it provides Love and LeBron with an opportunity to develop chemistry and work a two man game for periods of time while Irving is on the mend. On paper, a LeBron and Love pick and roll/ pick and pop seems nearly impossible to defend given how versatile both players are and how quickly they can react to whatever the defense does. Irving has shown an ability to adapt and excel in whatever role he is asked to play in. Whether it be for team USA and all star competitions, Irving always seems to find ways to stand out and remain highly effective. If Love and LeBron find something that works in the time he is out, there is little doubt in my mind that Irving will be able to figure out what the Cavs need most alongside of them and continue to stand out.
With all these stars aligning, Love appears to be a lock to have a bounce back season and return to form as one of the league's best players. Without the specter of free agency hanging over Love and the team and with a season under their belts together, it's not hard to imagine big things from Love and the Cavs moving forward.