Monday, December 14, 2015

Kevin Love: Traditional big man

Why aren't the Cavs getting full offensive value out of Kevin Love?  On a team level the Cavs are doing well (#3 Ortg despite missing an offensive all-star), on a personal level though Love isn't doing the greatest.  His three best seasons on the Wolves were all substantially better than his season+ with the Cavs, even though this should be his statistical prime, and he has much better offensive teammates taking the pressure off and opening up "space" for him to work. 

Space was the operative word for a lot of talking heads when Love joined Lebron and the Cavs.  "A true stretch 4" they said, so lets talk about the stretch 4.  K Love is an excellent 3 pt shooter for a big man, but that is a huge caveat.  Big men suck at 3s, so being great compared to a bunch of sucks isn't the same as being great in an broader sense.  In terms of 3 pt shooting across the league Love is above average, but far from great.  A career mark of 36.4% from 3 compares nicely to a league average of 35% last season, and he has been shooting them at a high volume as well (8th in the league in total 3pt attempts since 2013/14). Is this a big deal for the Cavs?  I would say that while it is nice, it appears an over rated skill for this team as Cleveland has a bunch of other options with career 3pt numbers as good or better than Loves 36.4% (Mo, Delly, Smith, Jefferson, Jones, and hopefully soon Kyrie), and one could expect to spread several of those attempts out among his teammates if Love was doing more work inside.

What none of these players, excepting Irving, can do is score near the rim and none can grab offensive rebounds at a high rate.  These are the most obvious differences in Love's raw numbers with the Cavs.  In his last 150 games with Minnesota he averaged ~1 FT for every 9 possessions, with Cleveland that is ~1 every 16 possessions, and his offensive rebounding in both totals and rate is down significantly.  While his 3 pt shooting is a good skill for an NBA player to have his FT generating is (or it was) an elite skill.  Even with the decline over the past year + and his fairly high missed game total he is still 11th in the league in FTAs since his rookie season.  His offensive rebounding also used to be elite.  In terms of Oreb% he holds the 5th, 10th and 21st best seasons since he joined the league. 

It should come as no surprise that as Love's 3ptar has climbed throughout his career, his FTr and Oreb% have dropped (with this season marking his worst FTr and 3rd worst Oreb%). 

Is this something that needs to be changed, or should the Cavs be satisfied with the way things are going?  Ignoring Irving's return for now (I hope to do a post on him after he has reintegrated) the Cavs should be more focused on getting more out of Love offensively for the following reasons.

1.  Their #10 defense isn't going to cut it with the #3 offense.  With several below average defenders in the mix (Mo, JR, Love) it will be hard to get a really high end defense out of this group. 
2.  The Cavs know that they cannot count on being 100% healthy, should injuries strike again this year they will need to be able to change gears and if Love isn't the one that goes down being accustomed to playing with him as the focal point will be valuable.
3.  The Love/Lebron combination is at its best with Lebron sacrificing some O for defensive effort and Love committing to offense at the cost of some of his defense. 
4.  Love's two highest usage seasons (both 28.8%, currently at 24.4) were more on average more efficient than Lebron's return to the Cavs has been.  With plenty of room to bump up his usage, even if it came at the expense of Lebron's touches, Love could be contributing more offensively.

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