First off, I am going to say that Kevin Love is one of the most underrated players in the NBA. His rebounding skills are phenomenal, he has a textbook jumpshot, and he has slimmed down significantly since he was drafted in the 2008 NBA Draft. NBA pundits and analysts criticize him for his drop-off in his statistical averages, but what do you expect to happen when you are playing with a top-3 point guard and the best player in the NBA? In my opinion, the blame should be on the Cleveland Cavaliers coaching staff for taking so long to integrate him into their offensive scheme. It was not until Tyrone Lue took over for the team midway through last year’s regular season when we began to see how impactful Love can be for this championship caliber team.
Unfortunately, despite the progress, Love has been inconsistent at times, and last night’s game proved that he can be a liability. In Game 1 of the most anticipated NBA Finals in recent memory, the former Timberwolf’s struggles from the field (4-13) overshadowed his tremendous 21 rebounds. If Love does not put up 20-25 points with 4 or 5 three pointers, his deficiencies on the defensive end stand out like a sore thumb. He is too slow for Kevin Durant, not physical enough to compete with Draymond Green, and even Zaza Pachulia was able to have his way with him on a couple of plays. Unless he picks up his offensive efficiency and toughens up on the defensive end, Love and the Cavaliers could end up being swept by the juggernaut Warriors.
What made Love great coming out of college up until his last year in Minnesota was that he was matchup nightmare. Small-forwards weren’t tall enough to handle him, power-forwards could not deal with his arsenal of post-moves, and centers were too slow to close out on him on the perimeter. Now, with the evolution of the small-ball lineup, his strengths have become weaknesses.
The NBA is an unforgiving league; you either keep up or get left behind. Kevin Love has a varied skillset that made him dominant earlier in his career, but in this modern age of basketball his usefulness has been greatly diminished. Because of this, if the Cavs want to keep up with the Warriors and other teams around the Association adapting to a new era, they must trade Kevin Love. It would be an unfortunate ending as Love was never able to give the Cavaliers the production that he had in Minnesota, but he could definitely become a key contributor to another team in the future. The only thing that would keep Love on the Cavaliers is if no NBA team would part ways with a valuable piece and take on his max contract.