In the second biggest move of the offseason, Kevin Love has been traded in principle to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a protect 2015 first round pick. Since Wiggins recently signed his rookie deal, the trade cannot be consummated until August 23. The Cavs needed to sign Wiggins before completing the deal in order for the salaries to match. Although the teams could back out of the deal, it is high unlikely that the Wolves will find a better offer than the last 2 first overall picks.
What Love brings to the Cavs
The 25 year old power forward out of UCLA has statistically been one of the best players in the league over the past 4 seasons. Besides for his 12-13 season, where he averaged “only” 18 points and 14 rebounds per game in 18 games, he has recorded at least 20 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. In his last two full seasons, he averaged 26 points, 13 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and a 27 PER. In terms of skills, Love is the premier stretch 4 in the game because he is a solid three point shooter, but also has the ability to score near the paint. Last season, Love shot 46% from the field and 38% from behind the arc, including 2.5 threes per game. Unlike other stretch power forwards, Love is a very good passer as he averaged 4 assists last season. Along with his great passing and shooting, he is the premier offensive rebounder in the league. The combination of Love’s size, strength, shooting stroke, and passing ability makes Love one of the best offenses players in the game and a perfect teammate for LeBron James. Before the addition of Love, the Cavs did not have a consistent big man that could score over 20 points per game or spread the floor, like Love. Love’s rebounding skill will allow the Cavs to go to a small lineup, but still keep the opponents off the boards. Love should be able to quickly adapt to his new role as the second or third option because he does not always need the ball in his hands to dominate. Unlike Chris Bosh, Love is willing to snag tough rebounds in the paint.
While Love is one of the best offensive players in the league, he leaves a lot to be desired on the defensive side of the floor. Although Love is willing to grab rebounds, he gives very little effort when defending his opposition. In terms of his advanced metrics, Love is one of the worst superstars on defense as his DWS is about 2 and his Drtg is consistently above 104. Love does not have the athleticism or lateral quickness to stay with his opposition. Also, Love is not a rim protector as he has never averaged more than 0.6 blocks per game. However, Love may show more effort on defense now that he is playing for a contending team. If the Cavs are going to compete with Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Blake Griffin, or Tim Duncan, Love must show effort since he is not a natural defender or a great shot blocker. Also, Love has never played in the postseason and it is unknown if he will succeed under the bright lights.
What the Addition of Love Means for the Cavs
The addition of Kevin Love makes the Cavaliers a legitimate threat to win the Eastern Conference championship and the NBA Championship. The only team that has a chance to compete with the Cavs in the East is the Chicago Bulls and that is if D-Rose returns to playing at a MVP level. The Cavaliers will instantly become one of the best offensive teams in the league because they will have 3 legitimate 25 point per game scorers in Irving, James, and Love. Last season, the Big Three averaged 74 points per game. While the Big Three in Miami seems similar to the Cavs new Big Three, there are many differences that could start a dynasty in Cleveland. Unlike the Heat, the Cavs will have a star point guard in Kyrie Irving, one of the best point guards in the league. The backcourt of Irving and Waiters will be significantly better than the duo of Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade. Although Kyrie is not a traditional point guard and will have to learn from LeBron how to include others and score without the ball, he averaged over 6 assists per game last year. Unlike Wade, Kyrie is set to enter the prime of his career over the next few years and he is a significantly better jump shooter than Flash, which will mesh well with LeBron’s talent. While Love and Bosh are similar players, they have distinct differences, which will help the Cavs. While it took Bosh 3 years to become a decent three point shooter, Love is already a solid three point shooter. Also, Love has a more range and the ability to shoot from anywhere behind the arc while Bosh is usually restricted to the corners. Bosh may be a better defender and rim defender, but Love is a younger option and has more offensive versatility.
Along with the trio, the team will be surrounded by solid role players like Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao, Mike Miller, James Jones, Tristian Thompson, and potentially Ray Allen and Shawn Marion. Dion Waiters, Tristian Thompson, and Anderson Varejao make the Cavs a better team than the Heat and will allow them to become a legitimate threat to win multiple titles. Although the Cavs still lack a great shot blocker, (Varejao and Thompson did not average more than 1 block per game) the duo can score inside the paint and will force the opposing teams to guard them in the paint. Varejao and Thompson are solid rebounders, which will make the Cavs be able to hold their opponents to one shot, which the Heat were unable to accomplish. Besides the three point shooters that also played on the Heat, Dion Waiters will be a major factor this season. Although he will be relegate to the fourth or fifth scoring option, he is a proven scorer, 16 points per game, and will help the Cavs spread the floor as he shot 37% from behind the arc last season. Waiters is only 22 years old and should continue to improve in the future. As the Spurs proved, one team can never have too many offensive weapons. Although the Cavs should be one of the best teams in all of basketball, they will not be a champion unless they improve their defense and supply more effort. The veterans, James, Jones, Miller, Varejao, and potentially Marion and Allen, must teach the young and inexperienced players how to win and the importance of defense. If the Cavs are going to hold their opponents under 100 points, Irving, Love, Waiters must put the team above their numbers in order to share the ball, stop the opponent, and ultimately win a title for the first time in 50 years in Cleveland.
Pics and Stats from ESPN.com