The Kevin Love Max Player Mistake-Mystery

The memes are what they are, hysterically funny and cruelly sober. The hand wringing and complaining sound oddly familiar to last year’s critique. The ultimatum for David Blatt to do something or his job will be a two year Cleveland interlude is a tired song. A year later, nothing has changed. A year later, the Cavaliers are seemingly on an island, all alone. They are good enough to march their way through the Eastern Conference. But they cannot beat the exceptional West.  Because there is a difference between being very good and being great. It is the difference between champions and their victims, between champagne and tears.

It doesn’t matter that Kevin Love had 17 points and 18 rebounds against the second worst team in the Eastern Conference, a day after he told LeBron James to look in the mirror. That’s how Kevin Love does things. ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst, on his podcast, remarked about Love’s passive aggressive nature.

“Kevin will do things like not look you in the eye and say Russell Westbrook is the MVP, or say it starts with our leader instead of coming into a meeting or coming into a huddle and say ‘I am open, I can take this guy. Give me the ball here’.”

Love was paid handsomely this offseason. In a moment of emotional disonance, the Cavaliers paid Love the most money they could pay him and it’s hard to understand that decision outside of the context of it was to keep him away from the Lakers or some other team willing to give him the same deal. It’s not a good reason to pay someone, particularly if that someone doesn’t have the ability to live up to his contract. We witnessed with horror what Deron Williams devolved into when he was overpaid, a marginal bit player that couldn’t do what was required. Is that the Kevin Love mystique?

This is something to think about. Kevin Love has never been asked to fit into a three star system. When he was at UCLA, it was Love and Russell Westbrook. When he was with the Timberwolves, he was the star of the show and was frequently accused of being a stat guy, caring only about what he does for himself, not what he does for other people.

You pay the max amount for two reasons. You pay it because that is what the player can deliver on a nightly basis. Their talent is supreme. They can get theirs and make others better. Is that Kevin Love? Has he ever made anyone better in his career?

Or, you pay the max amount to keep him in-house, because it costs more to let him walk. That appears to be what the Cavs did when you consider all the things Love cannot do. He can’t guard his position and lately, particularly against the Warriors, his effort is less than mediocre. Love is a power forward who doesn’t get his points by posting up. He doesn’t block shots, he’s not a rim protector. He’s not a Draymond Green level screener. His lateral speed is average. He doesn’t facilitate offense for others.

Kevin Love does score from the perimeter. He can get the ball on the block, spin, turn and score. He can cut to the rim and finish in traffic. But he is not being used that way and when he isn’t being used the way he needs to be used, he loses interest, he goes through the motions, he disappears in a very wtf way.

David Blatt, in year two looks, like David Blat in year one. Everyone is questioning his ability to scheme a player like Love and frankly, is it that hard?

“The Cavs haven’t really tried on offense. Defensively, Kevin Love is a problem. He doesn’t move laterally well. He is not exceedingly tall or a good jumper so he’s not able to protect the rim. He hasn’t showed good defensive awareness in his career. The number one thing on the scouting report is to attack him on pick-and-rolls and back cuts which is what the Spurs did relentlessly and what Draymond Green did expertly on Monday night. But there have been horribe defensive players make the Hall of Fame because you take advantage of their world class talent at the other end. Kevin Love is a world class rebounder, a world class passer at the other end and a superior shooter for someone 6-10. But the Cavs don’t take advantage of any of that.

Over the past two years, I have talked to people, coaches, scouts. Love’s former teammates and they say to me why don’t they put Kevin on the the elbow like they did in Minnesota? He became an All-Star in Minnesota, not because he could stay in front of anybody, but you put him on the elbow where he is a triple threat and he can operate from there. The Cavs don’t do any of that. Why don’t the Cavs run 7-10 pick-and-pops a game? They rarely do that. Certainly not in these big games against the Spurs and Warriors when they play iso ball. Why don’t they take advantage of what Kevin Love can give them? David Blatt has 3 months and 40 games to figure out a way to make Kevin Love effective.” (Brian Windhorst)

Is Kevin Love a three-point shooter and that’s it? His Minnesota numbers say no.

Kevin Love, Once Upon A Time Points 3-Point % Rebounds Rebound % PER
2012-13, Minnesota 18.3 21.7% 14.0 23.3% 17.9
2013-14 26.1 37.6% 12.5 18.7% 26.9
 2014-15, Cleveland 16.4 36.7% 9.7 16.6% 18.8
2015-16 15.6 36.4% 10.9 19.0% 19.2

Kevin Love bears some responsibility in this whole funk. Is his desire to win greater than his reticence to challenge LeBron, Kyrie and Blatt, head on? He can’t have it both ways. He can’t be paid the most money and then act as if he is the 7th man off the bench. It’s ridiculous to talk about trading Kevin Love. After all, he has star offensive talent and he is labor. He is doing what he is being told. It is management that needs to change if they can’t figure this Kevin Love thing out.

Tom Thibodeau is waiting.

photo via llananba