Cavs’ Kevin Love showing Toni Kukoc appreciation makes perfect sense

Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsp
Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsp /

It makes perfect sense that Cleveland Cavaliers big Kevin Love showed appreciation for former Chicago Bulls forward Toni Kukoc.

It is evident with the fifth and sixth episodes of “The Last Dance” set to be first aired on ESPN on Sunday night that even us Cleveland Cavaliers fans and NBA fans in general are locked into the action.

The NBA’s season is on hiatus and it’s not certain if we will see the 2019-20 season resume at some point yet, and for recent reported updates and/or ones regarding a potential later 2020-21 season start, you can view those here.

Meanwhile with the lack of live NBA games, seeing exclusive footage about the Chicago Bulls’ 1997-98 season, the last year of their dynasty and Michael Jordan‘s time with them, and plenty of interviews/commentary, has been a nice way to get some fresh content.

A key part of the next batch of episodes, though, will hit on the importance of Bulls stretch big Toni Kukoc, who was a really nice piece for Chicago when he was with them, and was a crucial part of their success in their second three-peat championship run.

Kukoc’s play-style, although it was more on the perimeter in terms of off-the-bounce and often featured him at the 3, was, from a Cavs’ perspective, somewhat of a precursor to a terrific big man shooter such as Kevin Love. With that being the case, it makes perfect sense that Love showed appreciation for Kukoc’s game on Sunday.

In his time with the Bulls from 1993-94 to 2000 before he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of a three-team deal also involving the Golden State Warriors, Kukoc had 14.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.1 steals per game, per Basketball Reference. Before being more so a starter for the Bulls, Kukoc was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 1996, too.

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While Kukoc didn’t by today’s standards shoot three-point shots nearly to the efficiency of Love at first glance, as he hit 33.5 percent from deep for his career as compared to Love’s career three-point hit rate of 37.0 percent, triples weren’t close to as much of a mainstay in the NBA back in those mid-to-late 90’s days.

The dude would’ve fit in even better in today’s league, and it was abundantly clear that Kukoc was an integral part of the Bulls’ second run of titles.

Watching Kukoc, too, the smooth shooting 6-foot-11 lefty forward came up with his share of big contributions in the postseason, both as a bench and then starting contributor, and overall, his game I’m sure Love has perhaps taken a few things from.

Kukoc was such a skilled passer that had great vision, could run the floor and handle it for his size, and was a mismatch when he was defended by more interior-focused defensive bigs.

Like Love, Kukoc could definitely do work in the mid-post area as well both in the passing and scoring sense, and though he was more slender than Love, Kukoc could get into the lane and convert via runners and was more of an above-the-rim finisher in his prime. Kukoc’s ball fakes were a thing of beauty as well, as often are from Love in the low post and perimeter shooting variety.

He also could drag out those players to help out Jordan, Scottie Pippen and others, such as how Love does for pieces such as Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, and it again makes perfect sense as to why Love seemed to show his appreciation for Kukoc’s game.

Anyhow, Kukoc would go on to play for the Sixers for a bit before being dealt to the Atlanta Hawks and then following his tenure with them, would close out his career by playing four seasons as a bench contributor for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Moreover, considering he was one of the true examples of an earlier-on stretch forward that played the 3 and 4 with his handle, passing vision/tool box, and also had awesome touch at all three levels, it’s not shocking to have seen Kevin Love show appreciation for Kukoc.

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Love, just like so many of us right now, will be locked into the fifth and sixth episodes of “The Last Dance,” which are set to air on ESPN at 9 and 10 PM Eastern. I can’t wait.