Until the day that David Blatt was fired a little over a year ago, every time something went wrong with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the blame shifted to the now-deposed head coach, and Kevin Love.
Because Love didn’t put up the 26 points and 12.5 rebounds he put up during his last year with the Minnesota Timberwolves. This totally forgets that in Minnesota he was the focal point of the offense, and in Cleveland, he was probably option #3.
So, his numbers dropped with the Cavs to around 16 points and 8 boards per night in his first two years here, although this year, he is up to 20 points and 11 rebounds per game.
When it was announced earlier this week that Love had a loose body removed from his knee and would miss about six weeks of action, the critics came out yet again.
Those people once again advocate dealing Love for a variety of different packages, because he’s not reliable, he’s injury prone, and he doesn’t fit in against Golden State, the only team Cavalier fans think about in terms of opponents.
This despite Love being a starter for a team that won the NBA Championship a year ago, and having a very good game seven in the NBA Finals, scoring 9 points and grabbing 14 boards.
He averaged almost 15 points and nine boards per game throughout the playoffs last season.
Really, what does this guy have to do to garner some respect from the basketball fans in northeast Ohio?
There has even been people revisiting the trade which brought Love to Cleveland, giving up former first overall pick Anthony Wiggins to Minnesota. Those criticisms came of course after Wiggins scored 41 points vs. the wine and gold on Tuesday night.
Not to get all analytical with you, but Love has a VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) of a little over 2.0 in both seasons he has played with the Cavs.
His win shares in both seasons with Cleveland are around 8.5.
As for Wiggins, his VORP has been negative in both of his first two seasons with Minnesota and this year, it’s at the break even point of 0.0.
His win shares for last season was 3.4.
The point is that by the analytics Kevin Love is a way better basketball player than Anthony Wiggins, and it is not even close.
Wiggins can score, there is no question about that. He’s averaging a career high 23.2 points per game. Unfortunately, that’s about all he does on the basketball floor, getting just 4.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per contest.
Do the Cavs really need another high volume scorer?
Heck, Love averages almost two assists per game, and that is hardly his primary function on the Cavaliers.
Wiggins was the first overall pick, but he might be the only the third or fourth best player on his own team. Certainly, Karl Anthony Towns is better, and so is Zack LaVine.
And while Love is the third best player on the Cavs, Cleveland is a championship team, and they have the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Being the third best player on a title contender is a heck of a lot better than being the third best player on an also ran.
The Cavs will probably overcome Love’s injury and will continue to pile up wins. However, that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player, or that he can be replaced.
That speaks more about the leadership provided by LeBron James and Tyronn Lue, and the championship pedigree developed here.
Kevin Love is a big part of this basketball team. Make no mistake about that.