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Kevin Love's defense hindering his versatility from helping the Cleveland Cavaliers

Yash Matange
1.44K   //    18 Jan 2015, 10:04 IST
Kevin Love needs to start contributing defensively to start becoming invaluable to the Cavaliers.

Current situation with Kevin Love in Cleveland

As part of a huge three team trade, Kevin Love was shipped from Minnesota to Cleveland during this past off-season for his contract year. Through the first 39 games of the season, the Cavaliers have struggled with a sub .500 record of 19-20 and didn’t take long after that for everybody to start getting curious about Love’s free agency decision this summer. 

Despite the mediocrity of the team, Love told Northeast Ohio Media that he plans to opt in this off-season and sign with the Cleveland franchise for the 2015-16 season. Picking up the $16.5 million player option will ensure his presence next year, but Love intends to remain with the franchise long term.

"I think that we will figure it out here, so I don't plan on opting out or any of that.I plan on being here. As far as leaving my options open, I mean sure, it's always there. At the end of the day, it's always good to have something but no, I plan on being here."-Love.

Love’s versatility under-used

In a recent game against the Sacramento Kings while being on the wrong side of a blowout, Love became the fastest NBA player to reach 500 3-pointers and 4000 rebounds. He averages 1.3 made long range shots and 12.1 rebounds through his seven seasons.

Top current Stretch 4's in the past decade
Player No. of seasons Career three pointers made average Career rebounding average
Kevin Love (CLE) 7 1.3 12.1
Kevin Durnat (OKC) 8 1.7 6.9
Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) 17 1.2 8.0
Andrea Bargnani (NYK) 9 1.3 4.9
Channing Fyre (ORL) 9 1.1 5.1

As you can see from the table, no stretch 4 in the past decade shoots and makes as many shots from beyond the arc and grabs as many reboudns as Love has consistently over a seven year period or more. Although he has played the least number of seasons, clearly the change in franchise hasn’t stopped Love from continuing to be the most deadly stretch 4 in the league.

Cleveland’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving

Being part of a Big 3 with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, you would expect his numbers to take a dip yet he still averages an impressive 10.3 rebounds and 1.6 made three pointers per game in the season so far.

A team with a player having that kind of talent and versatility along with the best player on the planet in James should be unstoppable. Instead, the Cavaliers are at a .500 record. Cleveland fans would be thanking the gods for being in the East as their team is still safely in the top eight for the Playoffs in sixth spot. Anyhow by the current state of the team it would be safe to say that the Cavaliers have under-utilized Love and his talents. Why?


Cleveland need better reliable defense from Love

To a certain degree, the current team of the Cavaliers is very similar to the 2010-11 Miami Heat. The biggest and possibly only difference between the two is what is causing the biggest disparity between these teams close to halfway through the regular season. The Heat had an extremely versatile, atheltic and defensive minded team who had the luxury of falling back on their defense when they were struggling to finish games offensively however the same can’t be said for the Cavaliers.

Kevin Love plays the Chris Bosh role on this Cleveland team. Having said that, he hasn’t even come close to the type of defense Bosh displayed in his first four seasons with the Heat. The lack of defensive contribution has forced Head Coach David Blatt to bench him towards the end of games.

Love has a defensive rating of 107 and that needs to start coming down if he intends to finish games on the court rather than off it. Also its a pity that a player earning close to 15.7 million is warming the benches instead of playing crucial fourth quarter minutes.

To make matters worse, he is suffering from back spasms. He missed the game against the Los Angeles Clippers and was seen running and walking gingerly in the earlier game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Once healthy and completely fit, Love must focus on his defense to start becoming a real invaluable asset to this team.

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Yash Matange
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