Cavs: Kevin Love as backup 5 can work if he’s on from 3

Cleveland Cavaliers big Kevin Love shoots the ball. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers big Kevin Love shoots the ball. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

Kevin Love last season was severely limited for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He appeared in only 25 games because of complications involving a right calf injury, and was not able to be in there enough to look like himself.

Love was originally set to be a member of the US Men’s Basketball Olympic squad in Tokyo this last go-round, which could’ve been nice experience for him, and maybe aided a possible case for some trade value for Cleveland. That didn’t materialize, though.

He played sparingly in exhibitions before Tokyo, and eventually withdrew from the team after he reportedly wasn’t fully healthy/able to go.

Naturally, there have seemingly been suggestions of a possible buyout agreement between the Cavs and Love throughout the offseason, with how last season went for him and the lack of Olympic play.

That said, there’s not reportedly been any buyout discussions, and it does seem that Love will be back with the Wine and Gold. But there has been talk of him in a reduced role from here with less, but “more efficient” minutes, based on a report from earlier in the offseason from’s Spencer Davies. Jason Lloyd of The Athletic (subscription required) reported earlier this month that Love could potentially come off the bench too, for further context.

And’s Chris Fedor followed up that with, as part of a recent report, him stating that, along with the reduced, more efficient role, the Cavaliers have looked into using Love as the backup 5.

"“The organization has also discussed the possibility of Love as the backup center — a la Blake Griffin in Brooklyn — to boost shooting and spacing while allowing rookie Evan Mobley and Nance to gobble up most of the minutes at the 4.”"

Fedor’s report did express how Nance could be a potential trade candidate, as a side note, but he’s been an integral piece when healthy in recent years for the Cavs, and is a leadership presence, so we’ll see in relation to that.

Circling back to Love as a backup 5 option, though, that’s at least a chunk of the time regarding minutes for him. And while Love’s not a rim protector at the other end in that sense, the offensive/spacing element I could understand in that realm with his shooting abilities.

Love as a backup 5 option can work out for the Cavs if he’s right, and on from three-point range.

Factoring in the likes of Mobley and Nance, I get where the Cavs could be going for here with Love.

Last season, while he did hit 36.5 percent of his three-point attempts, he wasn’t nearly in the same shooting groove he was in the season prior, particularly leading from the 2020 portion on leading into the COVID-19-induced stoppage.

Due to the injury issues in 2020-21, he wasn’t able to establish a consistent rhythm game-to-game, though, but in a backup 5 role, as Fedor noted, he could help Cleveland’s spacing/shooting efforts, and could be a valuable pick-and-pop threat in those stretches.

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It’s apparent that Love isn’t a player that should be having nearly the same role next season/looking onward that he previously had.

However, if he can be healthy, even with his defensive limitations, he is still an elite defensive rebounder, good passing big and his catch-and-shoot prowess could work wonders for Cleveland’s bench.

That’d be realistically in stretches with Ricky Rubio, his former teammate on the Minnesota Timberwolves, who he could work especially well with, as KJG’s Billy Beebe suggested, and others.

In 2019-20, over a 56-game sample size (out of 65 games), Love was very efficient in the mid-post area, and over that span, he had 17.6 points per outing and hit 37.4 percent of a career-high 7.0 three-point attempts per game.

Granted, his deep shooting clip was similar last season overall, but he wasn’t in-rhythm the majority of when he was able to be in there.

If Love can find his shooting stroke in the early going next season, though, in stretches off the bench, that can provide a different element for Cleveland, and mesh well as a counter to Evan Mobley-Jarrett Allen stretches. Perhaps even at times with Lamar Stevens, with his defensive abilities/versatility, could be a productive wrinkle for the Cavs, too; we’ll see regarding that, anyhow.

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Either way, this potential Love backup 5 experiment, whether or not he were to be in there at the 4 a fair amount still, from a spacing standpoint offensively and from a three-point generation perspective, would be a sensible one. Hopefully we can see that materialize, in relation to his health.