It was easy to assume Kevin Love was going to absolutely thrive when he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers last year. Joining LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, being part of a team with championship aspirations for the first time in his career, nobody was outside their minds in believing Love was about to become an even better player than he already was.
What eventually happened, though, was surprising.
In his first year with the Cavs, Love saw drops in many of his stats. He seemed out of place, and never truly gelled with his fellow superstar teammates. His PPG dropped almost ten full points and, eventually, many just figured this was what the future held for Love in Cleveland now that he wasn’t the focal point of the offense.
However, just 14 games into this season, it’s starting to look more and more like last year was just a bump in the road instead of a sign of things to come. In fact, Love certainly seems like he’s well on his way back to All-Star form.
It was pretty clear just a few games into the year Love already seemed like a different player than the one who trudged through last season. He was in better shape, and showed a level of comfort and energy on the floor which was rarely seen last year.
As a result of this significant change in Love’s play, he’s becoming more and more effective offensively as the season carries on. He’s only had a couple games this year where it just didn’t seem like his shot was falling. Additionally, Love has scored at least 22 points in six of his last eight games.
However, one of the most telling signs Love was on his way back to being the superstar everyone remembered was his play last night.
Taking on a scrappy Orlando Magic team, he put forth what was essentially his first ever “takeover game” as a Cavalier. Shooting .611 from the field, as well as .667 from three, Love tore Orlando apart with 34 points. During one 5 1/2 minute stretch in the first half, he scored 17 consecutive points. He caught fire behind the arc, but was also roughing up anyone the Magic threw at him in the paint.
Love had some great games last season, sure, but there never seemed to be a night where he single-handedly mauled the opposing team. It was the kind of performance which proved he finally felt like a core member of Cleveland’s offense.
A night like last night and a start to a season like the one Love is putting forth is exactly what needed to happen for the Cavs’ big man. It’d be easy for him to tell James he could do more, as he did before re-signing with the team this summer, then show up to camp in questionable shape or seem out of place all over again. Instead, Love told his fellow superstar he could be a major factor for this team, and has since gone out to prove it.
Obviously, 14 games isn’t enough to officially deem Love an All-Star. There’s still plenty of time for him to hit a slump, as he’s just as susceptible to such a thing as any other player.
That said, you can’t deny Love finally looks like the man everyone thought he’d be when he officially joined forces with James two summers ago. He was an All-Star snub last year for obvious reasons, but if he keeps playing like he has, he can go ahead and pencil a February trip to Toronto into his calendar.