Last season, it was a nice get-right year for Cleveland Cavaliers stretch big Kevin Love. After a season where he appeared in only 25 games, and didn’t look like himself or comfortable when he was in action, Love had a bounce-back season in 2021-22.
In a move to a bench supersub-type role, Love excelled, and the move preserved him throughout the season. Given what transpired the year before where Love was limited because of injury, and with his extensive injury history, it was logical for him and the team to ultimately move him to that bench role, and it paid dividends for both.
Love isn’t the player he once was, but he was efficient when he was in there, and he gave the club quite the spark in his time in off the bench. He had 13.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per outing, which in 22.5 minutes per outing, was noteworthy.
Love hit 39.2 percent of his three-point attempts on the year, most notably, and despite the minutes-share and coming off the bench most of the time, he even led the Cavaliers in three-pointers made with 187. That was the third -most triples made in a single season in Cavs history.
For his efforts off the pine, Love actually placed second in the NBA in Sixth Man of the Year voting, which was not something I would’ve seen coming into last season. What Cavs fans would have, really?
With this coming season in mind, though, I could maybe see his three production/hit rate dipping some from a game-to-game standpoint, with others in the fold. Lauri Markkanen in his second season with the Cavaliers and more adjusted to a role change should factor in there, and Caris LeVert/Collin Sexton (if he’s around) should, for instance.
Even if the triple production dips a bit, Love can have a similar impact in 2022-23 for the Cavs as he did in 2021-22.
When he’s in, we know what Love can do for Cleveland as a catch-and-shoot threat and floor spacer. He’s a knockdown shooter off of ball-swings when he’s right, and he’s more than capable of hitting deep balls from way beyond the arc, similarly to Garland and Markkanen.
That said, while he could potentially do so again next year if he stays mostly healthy, I probably wouldn’t expect Love to lead Cleveland in threes made in 2022-23.
I’d probably lean Garland in that realm for now, or Markkanen; Markkanen is a guy who has historically missed legit stretches of time too, however, with his Chicago Bulls days in mind. Even still, this coming season, I personally could see Markkanen staking his claim as Cleveland’s top sniper, and further proving the reasoning for his deal last offseason.
And despite him not being a guy that will likely be involved a bunch at the outset of the upcoming season, if he receives opportunities, rookie Ochai Agbaji could be a notable shooting presence in rotational minutes. As aside, I personally could see Love and Agbaji meshing well together in stretches, with the movement shooting abilities of both, and Love being such a gifted passing big.
But taking everything into account, with the overall shooting reputation he has, I still believe even if the triple production is reduced some, and his hit rate dips a bit, Love could still definitely have a similar impact for Cleveland in that key bench role.
He was great in that shift last season, and in the 2022-23 campaign, if he can be mostly healthy, which can play out based on how he was managed last year, he should give the club a sizable lift again. Granted, I wouldn’t think a 6MOY runner-up is in the cards this go-round.
Regardless, even with Love set to enter his age-34 season, the team now knows the blueprint with him for next season, and that’s meaningful for then.
And while Love is set to be expiring, if there’s another strong season, perhaps a new deal could play out eventually, such as in a potential LeBron James third stint, with recent reports/rumors in mind. Kev and Bron are so close, too.