The Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Kevin Love on August 23, 2014. Fans thought the Cavs were getting the 20-10 rebounding machine from Minnesota. Sure it would take some time getting used to playing with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving but they should gel quickly enough to compete for a title. The growing pains took a little longer than most expected.
In his last season in Minnesota Kevin Love took 18.5 field goals per game, averaged 26 ppg and 12 rpg on 45% shooting and 37% from the field. He played in 77 games and scored in double digits in every game. He led the league with 65 double-doubles, he got to the line 633 times and grabbed 224 offensive rebounds. The Wolves finished 40-42 that season but Love was a top 10 player in the league.
Fast forward to his first season in Cleveland, Love had 13 games under 10 points. His shot attempts were down to 12.7 and he was averaging 16 ppg and 9.7 rpg. He still managed to get 38 double-doubles but he struggled throughout the season. He was benched in 4th quarters and he never found a rhythm with the team. Although he wasn’t getting as many shots people wondered why he wasn’t grabbing as many rebounds. Well Love’s rebound percentage went down when he joined the Cavs. More importantly his offensive rebounding percentage went from 8.5% to 6.5%. This happened because Love spent more time around the 3-point line. His 3-point attempt rate went up to 41%, up from his previous high of 35%. His season ended in the first round of the playoffs as the Cavs went on to lose in the Finals.
The trade rumors were always there for Love. Who could the Cavs get for Love? Are the Cavs better without Love on the floor? Even with all the questions Love still resigned with the Cavaliers in the summer. He was determined to make it work with LeBron and Kyrie.
Surely Love would be better in his second year with the Cavs. He had 10 games under 10 points and 35 double-doubles. He was still attempting 12.7 shots per game and averaging 16 and 9. Things didn’t really change for the Cavs and Love. He was still being benched in the 4th and the trade rumors were still around. We all know how the season ended for the Cavs. The Block, The Shot, The Stop, all three members of the big 3 made big plays in game 7 of the NBA Finals against the team with the most wins in the regular season. Despite winning the championships and actually making a big play on the defensive end no less, people still wanted Kevin Love traded.
The Cleveland Cavaliers won a championship so they won the Kevin Love trade. It wasn’t good enough for some fans, they wanted the old Kevin Love back. Well Kevin Love is back this year. It’s only been 24 games but he hasn’t scored under 10 points in any game. He has a 34 point first quarter game, he has a 40-point game (he didn’t have any in 2 previous seasons) and he already has 16 double-doubles.
Kevin Love is back to a 20-10 player, averaging 22 and 10 on 46% shooting and 41% from 3-point land. His shots are up to 15.2 per game, his usage rate is higher, his PER is up to 25.8 and his offensive rebounding percentage is up to 9.0. For the first time in his career his true shooting percentage is over 60% (61%).
Love is shooting lights out from 10-16 feet, he was only at 34% last season, and now he’s up to 54%. He’s not just settling for 3-pointers or jumpers. He’s attacking the basket and his free throw attempts are up this season. The Cavaliers are on top of the Eastern Conference, every member of the big 3 is averaging over 20 points per game and Kevin Love finally looks like he is comfortable with this team.
Look at his per 100 numbers from his last season in Minnesota and this season:
2013-14 – 35.4 ppg, 17 rpg, 45% FG, 37% 3P, 120 ORtg (Offensive rating), 104 DRtg
2016-17 – 34.5 ppg, 16.5 rpg, 46% FG, 41% 3P, 122 ORtg (Offensive rating) 103 DRtg
There are four forwards/centers averaging 20-10 this season and Kevin Love is finally back in that category.