Kevin Love Is About To Be A “Bad, Bad Man” In 2017


With Tyronn Lue signing an extension, look for the Cleveland Cavaliers to have a three-headed monster with Kevin Love instead of a dynamic duo plus one.

As head coach Tyronn Lue returns to the Cleveland Cavaliers, he’s the main reason the team should believe Kevin Love will return to dominance next season. His offensive philosophy is just what the Love Doctor ordered.

In 2010-11, the genesis of Love’s ascension to superstardom, the Minnesota Timberwolves played at the fastest pace in the league with 96.5 possessions per game. As a matter of fact, from Love’s second season onward the Timberwolves always played at one of the leagues fastest paces, finishing in the top four for pace in the league every season.

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However, in Love’s fall from the superstar ranks he’s been playing at one of the slowest paces in the league with the Cavaliers. This isn’t a coincidence; the Cavaliers are playing at LeBron James‘ slow, methodical and calculating pace. Since James’ second season, he’s always finished in the bottom half of pace per game.

Lue’s offensive philosophy calls for the Cavaliers to deploy an aggressive, downhill, physical, fast-paced attack. Coming up and down the court the ball-handler is tasked with making a quick but smart decision of whether to attack the teeth of the defense or whether to pass and set up half-court action.

In the latter case, utilizing quick passes and heavy-motion to get players open to receive those passes where defenders are unable to jump the passing lanes, the team is able to reduce turnovers. This efficient blitzkrieg offense utilizes James’ athleticism and Kyrie Irving‘s ball-handling perfectly.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have the three-point shooters to surround the big three. That will allow them to do damage from their best areas inside the arc.

For Love, that area is the elbow. From the elbow, Love thrives as a facilitator and often makes beautiful pocket passes to cutters.  As a shooter, his touch is terrific from that area.

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The next step in the offensive philosophy involves using Love correctly in this offense. First, Love has to be aggressive on the offensive glass as James and Irving attack the rim. From there, Love should be the primary option as a trailer in transition. Lastly, in halfcourt sets Love, too, has to be a roller towards the rim as much as a pick-and-pop option.

With the offensive pace, Love should be relatively unattended under the basket as James or Irving attacks the rim. This should put him in prime position for dump-off passes in the paint and offensive rebounds around the rim. The deeper positioning and the increased pace with which he himself shoots will increase Love’s efficiency in the paint in Lue’s offense.

This doesn’t mean Love shouldn’t be allowed to be an elite stretch four. Love’s three-point percentage skyrocketed to 47.6 percent by April and 46.4 percent by May under Lue as the pace quickened. Love will be a primary option to score in transition as a trailing shooter as he hit 70.0 percent of his three-point attempts with 18 seconds or more left on the shot-clock.

When Lue took over Love was no longer shooting threes with a hair-trigger because he’d been particularly uninvolved in the offense. He was shooting threes in-rhythm and in the flow of the offense. He was ready to hit the shots as LeBron or Kyrie drove, not lulling himself to sleep as they dribbled. That’s the type of structure that an offensive identity provides.

Another aspect of what the offensive philosophy provides is an intent to feature Love in the low-post more. However, force-feeding Love early in the game to give him confidence makes the team too predictable. In order to increase the team’s effectiveness, Love will have to score in other ways than forced post-ups next season. Namely, rolling Love to the rim to score will make him more effective.

Love’s not going to dunk over a lot of players though he’s looking more lean as the days pass. What he can do in these situations is hit open players, establish deep position with his momentum going towards the rim and draw contact for fouls.

Since playing for the Cavaliers, Love has had the lowest free-throw rates of his career. That should change with him being a roller in pick-and-rolls with James or Irving, who are intended to be attackers. As they attack, their defender often goes under the screen and becomes Love’s defender as dictated by their proximity to him.

In these situations, if Love should miss his shot attempt due to rim protection, Tristan Thompson will be there to help collect the board. This, or his own offensive rebound, could lead to another shot attempt for him.

As Love rolls against a backcourt player and uses his size to his advantage, scoring will be easier for him than trying to score one-on-one in the low post against a bigger frontcourt player.

Aside from these things, these Cavaliers will set up plays for Love in the low post and the elbow. Utilizing a jump hook, Love has been effective over the course of his career. Using his quickness and focusing on his footwork, Love should be able to get this shot off as often as he wants from where he wants.

Again, he’s at his best in these situations moving towards the rim rather than trying to shoot straight up over the opposing frontcourt player, who is usually bigger or more athletic than he is. Love has broad shoulders and long arms that allow him to get space for a shot when he gets a body on his defender.

Love will return to his dominant self but all of this is borne from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ coaching and the team’s aggressive offensive identity. Look for Love to experience a revival in the paint next season.

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Rather than wearing Stone Cold Steve Austin gear, Love could be donning the black trench coat of The Undertaker next offseason. In the words of ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Kevin Love is going to be a “bad, bad man”.