Forget the Numbers, Love is Still a Key Component

Every time the Cleveland Cavaliers lose a basketball game, the reaction from the fans on social media is predictable.  Two people take the brunt of the blame.

It is either David Blatt’s fault, because that’s who we are in Cleveland, it’s always the coach’s fault.  God forbid, we ever make the players responsible for a defeat.

The second person who gets hammered for a loss is Kevin Love.  The only reason we can think of for this is that Love was apparently expected to average 25.0 points and 15 rebounds per game when GM David Griffin traded this year’s first overall pick, Andrew Wiggins and last year’s first overall pick, Anthony Bennett, along with other stuff to get the Timberwolves’ best player.

It’s not fair to Love, who certainly isn’t playing terrible, he’s averaging 17.1 points and 10.5 boards per contest.  And most basketball people realize it was Love who had to make the biggest adjustment among the Cavs’ stars, certainly more than LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

He is taking the least amount of shots since his second year in the league at 13.1 per game, down from the 18.5 he took per night with Minnesota a year ago.  He’s also making less, hitting just 42.7% compared to his career mark of 45.1% with the Wolves.  And his three-point accuracy is down slightly from his lifetime figure of 36.2% to 34.7%.

We have noticed that Love has been tentative in taking open shots at times, most notably in last Friday’s loss to Indiana which ended the wine and gold’s 12 game winning streak.

That and his decreased shooting percentage are the only problems we can find in the former UCLA star’s game.

There are some who think the Cavaliers would be better off with Tristan Thompson in the lineup instead of Love.  They are showing a lack of understanding of basketball when making that statement.

The Clippers’ Doc Rivers said it correctly when talking about Love last week.  You have to guard him.  Even if he’s shooting for a lower percentage than his norm, defenses have to pay attention to him.  And when he’s standing out around the third point line, opponents have to respect him, and that opens up driving lanes for Lebron James and Kyrie Irving.

That’s a key for the Cavaliers’ attack.

Conversely, Thompson doesn’t have to be guarded.  He has to be kept off the offensive boards, where he is very effective, but most teams would be thrilled if the fourth year pro out of Texas would shoot anything beside a lay up or a dunk.

People who only look at the raw numbers only don’t understand this dynamic.  Sometimes it is not what the player does, it’s what he is capable of doing that counts.

So, as long as Love is a threat, he is a very important piece of this Cavalier team.

It appears that Love realizes that his shot is off and he is putting time in to correct that.  We also believe that James’ “fit out” comment had more to do with the tentative play of the former all-star.  Love was told to be himself and not “fit in” during the preseason, and James sees him thinking too much and not playing his game.

In the meantime, just be patient.  Love will regain his shooting touch, and when he does, this offense will be even better.

The Cavs are getting better on a game by game basis.  Hopefully, that will continue well into the spring.

JK

 

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