There’s a common misconception that Kevin Love was completely lost in the shuffle during his first season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Raw statistics certainly support that narrative, too. The three-time All-Star averaged 16.4 points and 9.7 boards per game in 2014-15, a far cry from the scoring and rebounding marks we’d come to expect from one of the league’s most productive players over the past few years. And not coincidentally, Love’s 20.4 usage rate was the lowest since his rookie season.
That decline in numbers wasn’t unexpected. Love was the alpha dog in his six seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He’d never performed alongside a player the caliber of Kyrie Irving before, let alone a ball-dominant point guard and an all-encompassing force like LeBron James. A major adjustment to his game was necessary, and Love mostly made it – even if he appeared uncomfortable for the majority of his debut campaign with the wine-and-gold.
Raw statistics, however, have never painted an accurate portrayal of a player’s real impact. And as long as Love was effectively spacing the floor and cleaning the glass for the Cavaliers, that rule of thumb would certainly apply to him. Chris Bosh wasn’t always appreciated for his significance to the Miami Heat; it took time for the basketball world to understand just how important his position-changing, sweet-shooting, pick-and-roll thwarting ways were to the success of Erik Spoelstra’s super-team.
Is Love due a similar appreciation from league followers in his second season as the third wheel of LeBron’s Big Three? Perhaps. But the way James is telling it during training camp, his starting power forward may boast the statistical resumé that naturally accompanies adulation in 2015-16, too.
Here’s the four-time MVP on Love’s potential role with Cleveland, courtesy of ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
“I just think he’s more comfortable in the situation that he’s in,” James said after practice Wednesday. “He’s got a year under his belt; he knows what he expects out of himself and what his teammates expect out of him. I expect big things from him this year with a year up under his belt.”
“He will do some of the things he did prior to last year,” James continued.
It’s worth noting that such optimism always rules the day at this time of year. It’s easy for James, Love, and their teammates to spout rhetoric about a revamped offensive id when that’s what David Blatt and company are preaching in daily practices. The only thing that will decide whether or not the Cavaliers are committed to it is if it’s implemented when the real games begin in late October.
But it certainly makes sense for Love to shoulder a bigger offensive onus this season.