Kevin Love has had some inconsistencies this season so far for the Cleveland Cavaliers, which has led to his production declining. Love, who had 13.6 points per outing last year, to go with 7.2 rebounds per contest, has still been a quality glass cleaner with 6.8 boards per game, but is currently averaging 9.2 points.
Love is still a player that can make a world of difference for the Cavaliers in his stretches off the bench, to be clear. He’s connected on 37.1 percent of his three-point attempts on the season, and his effect on horizontal spacing is meaningful, too, coupled with his passing.
The issue is, Love hasn’t been able to get it going nearly as often as a deep threat nearly how he was to begin the season in the last month or so. Of course, he’s dealt with injuries, which fortunately, was not an issue last season, as opposed to several of recent prior seasons. That played into him finishing in second in voting for Sixth Man of the Year in 2021-22, in a season where he excelled in a move to a bench role.
Love missed six of seven games in recent weeks with a hairline fracture in his thumb, and he missed a back-to-back on Dec. 9 and 10 with back soreness. He’s 34, and has been no stranger to injury absences in his Cavaliers career, as one would acknowledge, and realistically, it’s not suprising that there’s been some ebb and flow.
Now, though, Love needs to get it going again for Cleveland’s bench, and on the plus side, he did help the team in his minutes on Saturday versus the Dallas Mavericks, despite the Cavs’ win being uninspiring with Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie out.
Love has to start heating up for the Cavs, if he’s going to have his share of minutes.
Love’s never going to be shy about getting his deep shots up in his minutes, as evidenced by him shooting nine of those in 15 minutes of playing time on Saturday night. He hit three of those, which wasn’t the most efficient, but his three triples were a welcomed boost for Cleveland, as the Cavaliers only connected on seven threes in 36 attempts then.
For Love’s minutes to be maximized, him canning deep balls can be crucial for the Cavs bench, as we have still seen this season when he’s been healthy, and last year, he led the club in threes made with 187. That was while nearly exclusively coming off the bench as well, and others continually benefit from his shooting reputation in his time on the floor.
However, with Love’s defensive limitations, the Cavs do need him to get going again if he’s going to continually be playing a legitimate chunk of minutes. The aforementioned ailments he’s dealt with have to be factored into it, to reiterate.
That aside, Love has connected on just seven of his last 27 three-point shot attempts, a 25.9 percent clip, across his last seven appearances. In that span, he’s had 16.8 minutes per game of PT, in which he’s averaged 6.1 points. In some instances, he probably should’ve gotten some more playing time, in fairness, and Love has to have his chances to establish a better rhythm.
Nonetheless, if Love can get back to finding his shot from deep, mixed in with some mid-post looks, leading to shots over the top or meaningful ball movement, it can breath more life into Cleveland’s bench, which has been an inconsistent group. Even with Caris LeVert giving the bench a lift of late, that group’s offensive play has been spotty at times.
Hopefully in the rest of the Cavaliers’ homestand ahead, Love can heat up, provided the chances arise, and seemingly relatively soon guys like and Cedi Osman can benefit greatly from Ricky Rubio being back, a player both have great chemistry with.
Ideally, the bench magic from Love will be making an appearance on Monday versus the Utah Jazz.