Coming into the season, it appeared likely that Love would come off the bench, with others involved such as Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen via sign-and-trade, and Love hadn’t been available much in 2020-21. Then, he was only active in 25 games, and one didn’t know what to expect prior to this season from Love.
Love had the injury-riddled season we touched on the year prior, and in the season before that, while he did close strong, there were moments of visible frustration more then, and during that season, a potential trade seemed even imminent at times.
Fortunately, Love was bought-in it appeared from the jump in 2021-22, and a shift to a bench supersub-type role turned out to be just what the doctor ordered for him and the team. Love had 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per outing, in what was only in 22.5 minutes per contest, and for his efforts, he was second in Sixth Man of the Year voting.
This season, he connected on 39.2 percent of his three-point attempts as well, and in less than 23 minutes per game, he actually ended up leading the Cavaliers in total three-point shots made, with 187. That mark was third on the Cavs’ all-time single season list, with J.R. Smith having that record from the 2015-16 season (204) and Wesley Person being second back from the 1997-98 season (192).
Still, Love’s three-point shooting was outstanding this now-past season for Cleveland, and next season, he could lead the team again in threes made, I believe.
Love leading the Cavs in 3s this season was impressive, and he realistically could repeat that feat in 2022-23.
As we alluded to, Love was terrific in this move to a bench role, and the move worked two-fold – it both preserved him health-wise, and Love was very efficient. That was reportedly the focus by Cleveland coming into the season in doing so with him, and to the now-33-year-olds’ credit, he executed that plan virtually to the T.
Love did not miss any time due to injury designations, which was a welcomed change as compared to the recent past, and the eight games he was out were because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols in November.
Love did some off games throughout stretches of the season, as one would expect, anyhow. But for the most part, he gave the Cavaliers a notable spark off the bench, and he had 21.8 points per-36 minutes, which, excluding 2018-19 (when he was active in 22 games), was his most since 2017-18 (22.7). For context, that was his last All-Star season.
Point being, Love seemed to be a in great shooting rhythm for much of the season, and next year, he could again be a go-to catch-and-shoot target when he’s in there for the Wine and Gold. As a result, he could feasibly repeat in leading the team in threes made in 2022-23.
Now, I’d imagine that Darius Garland will be close in the running in that regard, and the same could assuredly apply for Lauri Markkanen, who I believe is another guy who should hit the ground running next year. His chemistry improved with other Cavaliers as the season progressed, and he closed the season strong, to that point.
Along with those two players, I’d think Collin Sexton could make a considerable share of triples, provided he’s fully recovered, and back/extended, which seems likely. He isn’t as three-point-centric as the other three guys we mentioned, though, and the Cavaliers will want him attacking, in fairness.
In any case, in regards to Love’s outlook, while he could potentially be an expiring trade piece for Cleveland, maybe this offseason even, I’d more so foresee him as a key bench scorer again, and he’s an important leadership presence. If he ends up maybe as a player involved in a possible trade package, I’d get it, as he’s set to make $28.9 million next season, after which his contract is again up, but I still think Love could have a significant bench impact.
And as a result, I could still see him retained through next season, and as an aside, maybe the team extends his deal, if it’s reasonable, prior to next year, given his shooting, and defensive rebounding abilities. Love led the team in total defensive rebounds in 2021-22, no matter if Jarrett Allen‘s absences down the stretch were the reason.
Anyway, even with Love set to be in his age-34 season next up, I don’t think it’d necessarily be a complete shock if he again led the team in threes made. I of course hope that he gets more bench scoring help around him, and the team has more consistency from deep overall. The Cavaliers are capable, and Caris LeVert and/or a potential wing draft selection such as Malaki Branham, Ochai Agbaji or Johnny Davis could as scorers.