Kevin Love was officially introduced as the newest member of the Cleveland Cavaliers today.
The Cavaliers sent Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Love. They also dealt a first-round draft choice to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the three-team blockbuster. This is by far the biggest trade in the franchise’s history.
This transaction signals a new, better era for the city of Cleveland. So often, they have gone through so much heartbreak when it comes to sports. They had gotten used to seeing their favorite players leave their city for other teams time and time again. It had never looked more bleak than in the summer of 2010, when LeBron James announced on TV that he would be leaving his hometown for the Miami Heat.
Now that James has returned to the Cavs, as well as Kyrie Irving inking a multi-year extension with the club during the offseason, it will be fascinating to see how Love fits into the equation.
One thing that cannot be forgotten in this series of moves by the Cavs is the hiring of David Blatt as their new head coach. Blatt has experience coaching a multitude of teams overseas, including leading the Russian Olympic Team to a Bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics. His reputation as an offensive guru with intricately put together plays should fit in perfectly with his now offensive juggernaut of a squad.
Last season, the Cavs ranked 18th in three-point field goal percentage, 22nd in PPG and 27th in field goal percentage in the NBA. Due to Blatt’s brilliance and the acquisition of all these players, expect them to be in the top ten in all of these categories this year.
When looking at Love, the most important thing he should continue to do is work his way inside when it comes to his shot selection. When comparing this Cavs team to the Heat when they signed James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010, everyone expected these players to put up very similar stats to what they had posted the previous season. Bosh, who played for the Toronto Raptors during the 2009-10 season, averaged 24.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG and shot 52 percent from the field and 36 percent on his limited three-point attempts. Last season with the Timberwolves, Love averaged very similar numbers with 26.1 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 46 percent shooting from the field and a 38 percent clip from outside.
Bosh’s reputation took a big hit while he was on the Heat, especially during his first season where his scoring dipped more than five points a game. As his career progressed with the Heat, he became more of a mid-range to long-distance shooter, which is surprising considering his 6-foot-11 frame and wide wingspan. Where Bosh made the questionable decision to go further away from the basket, Love must do the exact opposite. Love averaged seven three-pointers attempted a game last season, a very shocking statistic. At 6-foot-10 and 243 pounds, he should focus more on his inside game. After all, he is probably the most skilled rebounder in the NBA and also has the reputation of following his own shot whether he feels it is going in or not. If Love can develop his post game more and frustrate defenses by pounding the offensive glass as well on his attempts, he could take his game to a another level. This is not to suggest he should abandon his three-point shot altogether, for he is a solid shooter. But for a guy with his rebounding chops and size, he could absolutely destroy opposing post defenses if he wanted too.
In terms of predicting his overall impact, I see Love’s number dipping a little bit from last season. Maybe not as much as Bosh, but I could see him averaging around 21.2 PPG, 12.2 RPG and 4.1 APG (another underrated aspect of Love’s game is his splendid passing ability) on respectable shooting percentages.
It will be a huge adjustment for everyone on the Cavs, but if Love makes a dedicated effort to temper his game to become a bigger post threat inside, the Cavs have a very, very good chance of making it out of the East and to the NBA Finals this year.