When he’s in there, Cavs often need more from Kevin Love

Cleveland Cavaliers big Kevin Love reacts in-game. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
Cleveland Cavaliers big Kevin Love reacts in-game. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /

It is no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled mightily for much of the season. While they have some encouraging young players on the roster, much was expected from veteran Kevin Love this season.

However, Love’s performance this season has nowhere near lived up to the $31 million owed to him in 2020-21. In just 23 games this season, Love is averaging only 11.6 points and is hitting just 35.0 percent of his three-point attempts.

Yes, injuries play a big role in Love’s less than impressive numbers this season. Having to miss nearly three months because of a right calf injury after playing just two games to begin the season is surely frustrating. Add onto that missing three weeks after returning to play just two games, and Love did not play in Cleveland’s last game, in what was a rough L at the Dallas Mavericks due to knee soreness.

So the criticism on Love cannot be laid on too heavily, but he surely has fallen short of expectations while on the floor this season. While Love cannot be expected to put up similar numbers when he was with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he is counted on to be one of the top scorers on this team when he’s out there.

Love is still a stretch-four capable of playing with his back to the basket and stretching the floor to hit three-point shots. His long-range shooting can come in handy, especially when guards Darius Garland (he has missed the past few games because of an ankle sprain though) and Collin Sexton can get into the lane and draw the attention of multiple defenders.

Arguably the biggest issue with Love is his sheer inconsistency from game-to-game.

When he’s in there, the Cavs often need more from Love.

Last week against the Orlando Magic, Love was two-of-11 shooting and scored six points, then followed that game up and in 22 minutes against the Washington Wizards put up a total of…zero shots.

Then just a day later, Love scored 25 points on seven-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc while grabbing ten rebounds against the Miami Heat. Most recently against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, Love’s plus-minus was minus-45 in 26 minutes of action. Yes, you read that right, minus-45.

Love has also shown his frustration at times this season, with the most notable moment being against the Toronto Raptors when he slapped the basketball inbounds right to a Raptors player who then dished it off for a three-point shot. That was a back-breaker, and discounted what was a nice effort by Cleveland until that point, as KJG’s Dan Gilinsky emphasized.

Like it or not, Love is viewed as a leader on this team. He has been in the league for over a decade, and he was along for the ride to four straight NBA Finals. How do the young players feel when they see Love have an outburst like this?

Don’t get me wrong, Love has done a lot of good off the court, especially when it comes to his willingness to be open about his battle with mental health. But we have to judge Love also by what he does on the floor, and it seems odd, to say the least, the Cavaliers are willing to discipline Kevin Porter Jr. and Andre Drummond.

Still, yet this Love incident against Toronto seemingly gets swept under the rug, as Joe Vardon of The Athletic (subscription required) expressed.

Not all players and situations can be handled the same. Still, when one player seemingly gets away with it when he has an on-court incident, and other players are punished for similar transgressions, that cannot send a good message to the rest of the locker room. The Cavaliers reportedly handled it internally, albeit something more concrete wouldn’t appeared sensible.

Then there was Love saying earlier in the week that he’d love to play in Portland, of which KJG’s Anthony Farris hit on. Yes, that is where Kevin Love grew up, but those comments came at an odd time. We are in the age of player empowerment, and players across the league are voicing where they would like to play, but again, what message does this send to the locker room and the organization?

After this tumultuous season, Love still has two more years left on his massive contract. By all accounts, he will not be traded. So in all likelihood, Love will be here at the start of next season, and he’ll likely be in the starting lineup.

While Love is likely not where he wants to be, despite his recent “I love Cleveland, I’ll f***in’ rock with Cleveland ‘til the day I die” comment, via Hayden Grove of Cleveland.com, he will have to make the best of it. The best way to potentially get out of Cleveland is to perform like a player who has a lot left in the tank.

The Cavaliers need Love to score 20+ points and grab 10+ rebounds while spacing the floor and being a mature veteran presence when he’s in there.

Next. Solid run this year for Dean Wade has been crucial for his growth. dark

Is this possible? Who knows at this point, but Cleveland simply needs consistency from Love from a game-to-game standpoint.