Today in Fear the Sword’s season hiatus player review series: Kevin Love. Follow the whole series here.
The optics of Kevin Love’s public frustration with the Cavs — from him punching a seat in Toronto to chucking a ball at Cedi Osman to reportedly telling GM Koby Altman that “I have plenty of money” when threatened with a fine — are not good. They did not help the Cavs amid a bad season, nor did they help him expedite an exit. Love is still a Cavalier and probably will be next year considering how much money is left on his contract. This is despite the fact he’s been on the trade block for a while now.
There are millions of reasons not to feel bad for Love. He did sign the contract that is likely the biggest reason why he’s still a Cavalier. Love, though, should still be empathized with. But he’s also in a position that’s not capable of making the most of what he does. Love’s stats cross the board — three-point shooting at the rim, defensive rebounding, etc. — are in line or better than previous years. He is 31 and likely due for a decline in the next few years. But it hasn’t happened yet. In the right situation — say Portland or another playoff-caliber team in need of a boost — Love can still make a difference.
Cleveland isn’t one of those situations. With Love appearing in 56 of 65 games, the Cavs are 19-46, 26th in offensive rating and 29th in defensive rating. The Cavs are being outscored by 7.7 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor, per Cleaning The Glass. Aside from his raw numbers, there is little positive there.
These issues are not really his fault. Love is playing a lot of minutes with young players who make a lot of mistakes. But it also means he’s not capable of dragging this team up a level. Of note, though: the Cavs are being outscored by 6.8 points per 100 possessions with Love on the floor and no Tristan Thompson and by 12.8 per 100 possessions in the inverse.
So was Love’s reaction to everything perfect? No, something he himself admitted. But this season for Love might be a sign of what is still to come. Next year, Thompson will be elsewhere. Matthew Dellavedova might too. That leaves Love as the lone member of the 2016 title team around and the one player besides Larry Nance Jr. and Cedi Osman who played with LeBron James in the playoffs and for a title. Neither of those players, though, can match Love’s playoff resume. He was there the whole time. Nance and Osman were guest stars in LeBron’s last year.
Now, he’s playing with a 21-year-old Collin Sexton, a 19-year-old Kevin Porter Jr. and a 20-year-old Darius Garland, plus a to-be-determined rookie from the 2020 draft. Based on what he and others have said, it does not seem like the environment he was pitched when he signed his extension. He almost certainly didn’t imagine four coaches in less than two seasons.
“This is where I wanted to be. I’ve said that all along,” Love said after he inked his deal. “There were some tough times where potentially I would have been traded and my name came up in rumors every few months. But hopefully that ends now. Inking this feels like part of something I’m very proud to be part of.”
Is that the case now, though? This season would suggest not. But it also suggests there’s little Love can do about it.