The Cleveland Cavaliers have been the clear winners of this off-season, no doubt. Acquiring two of the top five players in the world, LeBron James and Kevin Love (The Love trade hasn’t been officially announced and it won’t be until August 23rd per league rules due to Andrew Wiggins rookie contract, but it has been the worst-kept secret in the league. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first reported the trade.), the Cavs now possess a big three of Kyrie Irving, James and Kevin Love. It sounds great on paper, and it will be great on the court, but adjustments will need to be made on the part of all three of these players. The biggest adjustment, though, will need to be made by Love, as he will need to learn how to play as a third option, much like Chris Bosh had to adjust when he joined Miami back in 2010.
Last season in Minnesota, Kevin Love was the centerpiece of the team. He scored, he rebounded, he hit shots, he delivered bullet outlet passes after defensive rebounds and he was the Wolves most used player.
Per John Hollinger’s advanced player stats, Kevin Love had a usage rate (the number of possessions a player uses per 40 minutes) of 27.7 last season, the ninth highest rate in the entire league. For comparisons sake, in Bosh’s last season as a Raptor, he possessed a usage rate of 25.9, the 11th highest rate in the league for that season. Like Love, Bosh was the centerpiece of the Raptors that season, as he had a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 25.11 that season, the fourth highest rating in the league. For comparisons sake again, Love had a PER of 26.97 last season, the third highest rating in the league.
The similarities between the two can also be seen in their basic per game splits from the respective season I have pointed out:
Kevin Love 2013/14: 26.1 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 4.4 APG, 45.7 FG%, 37.6 3FG%, 82.1 FT%
Chris Bosh 2009/10: 24.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, 51.8 FG%, 36.4 3FG%, 79.7 FT%
The likeliness of the two players games are striking. Both players can play the stretch 4 and possess very good jumpshots that defenses need to respect. The duo both can rebound the ball at a high rate, score around the basket, set up teammates and most importantly lead their teams to victory.
Despite the Wolves missing the playoffs last season, the blame can’t be placed on Kevin Love. His 14.3 win share rate last season was the third highest in the league. The two players ahead of him? MVP Kevin Durant (19.2) and his new teammate, LeBron James (14.3). Bosh didn’t rank highly in win shares during his last season in Toronto, but he led them to 40 wins, the same number of wins Minnesota had this past season.
So now that we have looked at Love’s and Bosh’s numbers from when they were the centerpieces of their respective teams, let’s compare Bosh’s stats from that last season in Toronto and his first season in Miami:
Chris Bosh 2009/10: 25.9 USG, 25.11 PER, 24.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, 51.8 FG%, 36.4 3FG%, 79.7 FT%
Chris Bosh 2010/11: 21.0 USG, 19.44 PER, 18.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 49.6 FG%, 24.0 3PG%, 81.5 FT%
Now, as you can see, Bosh’s numbers went down in every category (excluding free throw percentage) in his first season in Miami, his first season as a third option. Bosh had to adjust to not having the ball in his hands on every possession and had to learn to play off-ball and get open. I am not saying that Kevin Love is going to have the same downgrade on the stats side of things, but they will definitely go down and Love will need to learn how to play off the ball in Cleveland. It may sound easy, as Love does everything Bosh does, but better. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. Love will need to adjust and learn how to play off-ball, get open off the ball and will need to hit open shots. This will be a tough adjustment for Love, who has been one of the league’s best the last few season, but it will be an adjustment that will come with time, and quite frankly, it will be an adjustment that is essential if the Cavs want to achieve their lofty goals this upcoming season.
Now, there is an argument to be made that Kevin Love will be the second option behind James, leaving Irving as the third option. This isn’t going to happen.
Irving is the point guard, and as a scoring point guard, he will have the ball much more than Love and will be taking and creating more shots. His usage rate was higher than Love’s last season (only by .1 percent) and it will be higher again this season. Irving will also need to tweak and adjust his game for the better of the team as well, but it will be to the extent that Love will need to.
Kevin Love has been the No. 1 option throughout his entire career. His usage rates, win shares and PER have all been among the league’s elite, but that will change this upcoming season. Like Bosh had to adjust when he become a third option in Miami, Love will need to do the exact same thing this season.
Dion Waiters has publicly said he has been looking at and studying tape of Dwayne Wade to learn how to play effectively off the ball. It would be a very smart idea for Kevin Love to start looking at tapes of Bosh during his last four seasons in Miami, to learn how to become an effective third option, without losing his status among the league’s elite.