By Mark Warmuth
Especially in Cleveland, we believe everyone has forgotten what a great basketball player Kevin Love is.
The first four years Love was in Cleveland, he was the whipping boy whenever the Cavaliers didn’t perform up to expectations.
If the wine and gold were not dominating opponents, the blame usually fell on him, mostly because he wasn’t putting up the gaudy numbers he did in Minnesota.
It is ridiculous that even when he was out earlier this season, there were some in the media who felt no other NBA team would be interested in this guy.
You see, Love averaged 26 points per game twice with the Timberwolves, and in different seasons, grabbed an average of 14 rebounds two different seasons in Minnesota.
However, there is no question that no player on the Cavs sacrificed more in the four years LeBron James was the leader on the roster than Kevin Wesley Love.
In those four seasons, Love’s highest scoring season was 19.0 in 2016-17, which was his best year during those campaigns. He averaged 11.1 boards, and shot 37% from three point range.
Playing up north, Love’s lowest percentage of shots close to the basket (0-3 feet out) was 25.3% during his last season with the Wolves. In Cleveland, his highest number in the four years the Cavaliers went to The Finals was 24%.
By the way, this year? He’s back to 29%.
Love became a “stretch four” as James’ teammate, and as he has shown throughout his career, he is so much more than that.
He is one of the best 25-30 players in the sport, and because he played with James and for three of the years, Kyrie Irving too, people have forgotten what a talent he is.
He’s a five time All Star, and had he not been hurt much of this year, probably would have made a sixth.
Think of how the 2015 Finals would have been different had Love and Irving been healthy for the entire series.
Since Love has returned from his foot injury, the Cavs have gone 3-2 in the five games he has participated in. Now, while they aren’t beating the elite teams in the NBA, while the big man was out, they were 11-41.
And in one of the games they dropped, he played just six minutes in his first game back.
Last Saturday, Love scored 32 points and grabbed 12 caroms in a win over Memphis, his best night of the season. And because he is still coming off the injury, he didn’t see the court in the last six or so minutes of the game.
In the last three of those games, he’s made 12 of 23 shots from beyond the arc, showing that his shooting is returning.
He’s also averaging 11 rebounds a game in the last four contests.
Just his presence on the court, has made the other players on the roster better too. They seem to play with more confidence, and Love’s outside shooting threat has opened up the lane for others.
We all know the Cavs are in tank mode this season, but we forget that a big reason they will likely have one of the three worst records in the league (and therefore, the best chance for the first overall pick) is Love’s injury.
Had Love been healthy this season, Cleveland probably wouldn’t have been a playoff team, but they would likely be sitting around the 7th to 9th pick area.
If the Cavs are able to get one of the top three picks this June, and keep Love, they will have a ready made one-two punch to start the season.
We have said this before, if you don’t think Kevin Love isn’t one of the games’ best players, you don’t know the game.
We think he will remind everyone of this over the last six weeks of this season.