Tuesday marked the eight-year anniversary of the Cleveland Cavaliers making a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire Kevin Love, as the Cavs pointed out in a recent tweet. This came shortly after the Cavaliers made the biggest free agent signing in team history, bringing LeBron James back to the team on a two-year, $42 million deal at the time. Love was brought in to be the third piece of the newly-established big three in Cleveland.
In the three-team deal, the Cavaliers received Kevin Love, the Timberwolves got Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young, and $6.3 million in a trade exception, and the Philadelphia 76ers received 76ers Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, Alexey Shved, and a 2015 first-round pick.
This trade established a big three in Cleveland with Kyrie Irving; LeBron James, and Kevin Love. This core would go on to accomplish amazing things for the Cavs in their four-year run. In the 2014-2015 season, the Cavaliers made their first NBA Finals appearance since 2007.
In the regular season, Love averaged 16.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. In the playoffs, he had averages of 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. Cleveland would face off against the Golden State Warriors for the first of their eventual four consecutive NBA Finals matchups. The Cavs would lose this series 4-2 after both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love both suffered injuries throughout the playoffs.
This was a tough loss for the Cavaliers, however, considering the injuries the team suffered, the series went better than it probably should have. The team was ready to take another stab at it in 2016. That year, Love’s game saw some major changes. He would become more of a stretch four rather than the rebounding machine that he was in Minnesota. These changes worked out for the betterment of the Cavs, though, and they went on to have the greatest NBA Finals comeback of all time.
They would come back from a 3-1 deficit against a Warriors team that went 73-9 in the regular season. Over the offseason, the Warriors would acquire Kevin Durant and things would begin to go downhill for the Cavaliers, unfortunately.
Over the 2017-2018 NBA Finals the Cavs made two trips, but, they only played in nine games total. A healthy Golden State team with Durant was just too much for any team in the league at the time to beat in a seven-game series. Along with this, the big three would begin to disperse off of the Cavaliers one by one to other franchises. First, Irving requested to be traded, which ultimately led to him being moved to the Boston Celtics, and the following offseason, James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.
Love was the only one from the big three that remained with the team despite being the only player from the trio that was not drafted by the Cavaliers. Although things have not always been pretty with Love on the team, especially through the rebuilding phase, he has toughed it out and stuck through it.
Granted, there have been times where he’s had visible moments of frustration in-game, and at times, it’s seemed as if he’d eventually be dealt.
There’s been injuries as well, and that likely hadn’t helped, but last year, Love had a resurgent season for a Cavs team that had quite the turnaround in 2021-22.
And things have finally come full circle now with Love reaching what looks to be the twilight of his career still a member of the Cavaliers and transitioning into a bench player and mentor for the younger players on the team. Last season, he excelled in that role, too, and even placed second in voting for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Needless to say, there’s been some twists and turns, sure; it’s been an eventful eight years, either way. Love should have a very productive season as a shooter in 2022-23, also.