The Cavaliers have essentially gotten the worst-case version of Kevin Love.
That player is still darned good, a borderline All-Star. But Love was an All-NBA second-teamer who received MVP votes before Cleveland traded for him.
They are confident Minnesota Love still exists, and they are re-designing their offense — and potentially their rotation, featuring more of Love at center — to unleash him again.
“Kevin is going to have the best year that he’s had here,” Tyronn Lue, Cleveland’s coach, told ESPN.com this week. “I thought he was great anyway. You keep bringing up Bosh. What did Bosh average in Miami? Kevin averaged almost 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] with two other All-Stars. If you are on a championship-caliber team, you have to sacrifice. But this year is going to be a big opportunity for him. We’re going to play through him more. He’s going to get those elbow touches again.”
We’ve heard this before. So, there should be some skepticism.
Love is 29, and after injuries, he doesn’t look as athletic as he did with the Timberwolves. Even if the Cavaliers feature him more, he can’t necessarily recreate what he did in Minnesota – especially because the rest of the league is better-equipped to deal with versatile and skilled big men.
But Irving’s departure changes the equation. Maybe, this time, Love will actually seize a bigger role. Using him at center could give him enough mismatches to flourish, though he’ll have his hands full on defense.
What happens when (if?) Thomas returns at full strength, though? As point guard, he’ll control the ball far more than Love.
If Love has re-blossomed into a near-superstar, Cleveland will gladly sort that out later.