For Cleveland to win it all this season, the talented power forward needs to buy into his role on both ends of the floor
POSTED: Jan 21, 2016 4:19 PM ET
Kevin Love has more of less played the role of Ray Allen in '15-16, attempting just one fewer 3s than team leader J.R. Smith
For Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, being named an All-Star has become common place. As for Kevin Love, making the move from Minnesota Timberwolves franchise player to a Cleveland Cavaliers core member has placed his All-Star status on hold.
Prior to joining forces with LeBron, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh warned Love that "It's extremely difficult and extremely frustrating" playing alongside James. For some, this concept may seem perplexing considering he's one of the most unselfish superstars of all time, but its more about Love adjusting to a new role than James sharing the wealth.
In Minnesota, Love was a three-time All-Star that scored and rebounded with the best the league had to offer. Since relocating to Cleveland, he's been relegated to more of a Ray Allen role than Chris Bosh. Just over 43 percent of Love's field-goal attempts have come from beyond the arc this season. Trumping the likes of Mo Williams (33.1) and Kyrie Irving (30.7). Through 40 games, Kevin Love has attempted 220 3s, five more than Kevin Durant and one fewer than long-range specialist J.R. Smith for the team lead.
Is it possible that Love is truly a 'stretch 4' that prefers the perimeter over the paint? During his last season with the Wolves (2013-14), Love attempted 505 3s, sixth most in the NBA. Many remember Love as a low-post threat but that's because he got the bulk of his team's shot attempts. Remember, Bosh said it would be frustrating. Mainly because no longer serving as a team's top option means a drop in touches. However, this season Love has played well with James, it's playing with James and Irving that's perplexing.
|Kevin Love This Season|
During Monday's loss to the Golden State Warriors, Love finished with three points on 1-for-6 shooting and six rebounds. Many onlookers wondered how Love can be so non-existent in such a big game. Sure he has his defensive deficiencies, but offensively he was flustered and it showed. When asked about his role in Cleveland's offense following the loss he said "I don't know how to answer that."
Well, let's try.
It's evident that Love was brought on to stretch the floor for James and Irving. Ideally he's a perfect fit considering his ability to shoot, rebound and pass. While the adjustment period from Minnesota to Cleveland was expected, after a season and a half it appears as if he's still finding his way. A trend that has to turn around if LeBron wants to cash in on his promise to bring a title to the Land.
|Love Trending In Wrong Direction|
Playing alongside James, Bosh found out that it can be both frustrating and rewarding. The Heat won at a high clip, but Bosh's touches were an all-time low. He went from averaging 24.0 PPG as the Toronto Raptors leading scorer, to never exceeding 18.7 PPG as the third wheel in the James-Heat era. The spots where Bosh caught the ball on the floor where no longer his sweet spots, his shooting range extended outside his comfort zone and he was expected to make timely shots despite minimal touches. While their games differ, their role in a LeBron James led offense are the same.
|Playing Alongside James|
Although the touches dropped for Bosh, he found a way to remain effective being named to four-consecutive All-Star Games, making four consecutive Finals appearances, winning two in the process. Unfortunately, the guys that put the 'three' in Big Three are hardly inserted because of their scoring. For the '90s Chicago Bulls, Dennis Rodman was that guy known for defense and rebounding. Same for the '80s Boston Celtics teams and Robert Parish. But look no further than the 2010s Heat title teams for the epitome of a Big Three.
During the Heat's great title run James and Wade handled much of the scoring load, but Bosh did all the dirty work. Looking back at the 2013 Finals match up with the San Antonio Spurs serves as a prime example. Game 6 of that series will forever be remembered for Ray Allen's game tying 3-pointer that sent the contest in to overtime. But the story doesn't end there.
With 32.5 seconds remaining in the extra period, the Heat led 101-100 and Bosh switched out on Spurs guard Tony Parker. Despite Parker's ability to get by most big men, Bosh managed to keep Tony in front of him. The play ended in a block field goal by Bosh. Later in the same period the Heat led 103-100. There's 1.9 seconds remaining and the Spurs are inbounding the ball. A cross court pass to Danny Green is made, and Bosh makes the rotation and blocks Green's 3-point attempt sealing the victory.
Those are the plays that a title contender needs out of their third best player. For the Cavaliers many wonder if Kevin Love can be that guy. Some say love don't cost a thing, but for the Cavs, it came with a $110 million price tag. In order for the Cavs to win it all, Love will have to buy in to his role. Not just offensively but defensively. The Cavaliers are officially at the halfway point of the season. And the questions surrounding Love's role on the team remains. Will his scoring enhance? Will his touches change? Defensively can he get on a string? As his adjustment period continues the hope surrounding Cavs nation is that Love will conquer all.