The Cleveland Cavaliers made a colossal error, letting go of Kevin Love. Love and Cleveland came to terms on a buyout agreement following the NBA Trade Deadline, but it was more so centered on Love wanting to have a legitimate role where he was playing. Ultimately, Love would sign with the Miami Heat on the buyout market, and he’s made a difference for Miami this postseason.
Supporters who wanted him gone deserve blame as well. Full disclosure: I incorrectly thought age cooked Love too.
It must sting management, teammates and the fans watching Love contribute while the Cavaliers are on the couch. He has started in six of Miami’s eight playoff matches, and his skillset has likely bought him a roster spot next year.
The Cavaliers made a big mistake in how they handled Love’s situation.
The Cavs opting to have Love out of their rotation leading into the trade deadline, eventually leading to his buyout, definitely stings now.
In round one against the Milwaukee Bucks, Love converted 43% of his triples on six tries a night. Through three games in the Conference Semifinals versus the New Knicks Knicks, his deep shot isn’t as dangerous, but his passing prowess is.
In Game 1 at New York, Love dissected the defense with four dimes. First, he used Jimmy Butler as a vertical threat through the middle against Josh Hart, a smaller defender. On the next three, he hit break cutters in stride with full-court outlet passes, leaving the Knicks in quicksand.
Even if his shot isn’t falling in his 21.5 playoff minutes, Love picks up extra possessions, scooping 7.1 boards per game. Per-36 minutes, his average jumps to 11.9, and per 100 possessions, his board numbers sit at 16.0.
Defensively, he’s taken two charges and operated well in the 2-3 zone when the Heat switched schemes in the postseason. Not bad for an NBA old-timer.
If Love doesn’t help the Heat in another possession, it still counts as a massive mistake that he isn’t assisting the Wine and Gold. He has started in six games in two rounds, and the Heat has won five. Is that not enough? Does it prove he still had some juice left to squeeze?
This is the guy who got bottom-shelved weeks before the All-Star break. Sure, he was shooting like he was aiming through crooked iron sights, but it was partly brought on by a fracture to his thumb on his shooting hand in November. In 15 games before breaking his finger, Love recorded 37.5% of his 3-point attempts on over five tries a game.
In round two, his shooting splits are significantly worse than what they were during his final stretch with the Cavs. But his experience and IQ have been the trade-offs. When he’s on the court, he screens for his teammates, keeps the ball moving and fiends for action on the glass.
Love is a rare player. Every time his group makes the NBA Playoffs, it goes to the NBA Finals. I’m unsure if this meant much to the Cavaliers or if they forgot, like probably most of the public. Nonetheless, the postseason belongs to the veterans. The Cavaliers didn’t have that many with notable postseason experience before getting sent home in just five games by the Knicks.
Love has been to four straight Finals. His counsel, when the team went down a game or maybe two ahead of elimination, could have been sage.
This is a lesson to appreciate what you have before it leaves you.