Early Trends in Cleveland
*Photo via Getty Images
LeBron James has never not been the focal point of attention during his NBA career. However, this season, James may finally start listening to his body and do something that he has not done before, defer. Many will point to his time in Miami, where James shared the court with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, but the thing is, James started deferring that year and Miami started the first two months terribly, as soon as James went back to being himself, the Heat took off and made it to the NBA Finals all four of his years in Miami.
This year just feels different for James, with an ailing back and over 1000 NBA games--including playoffs--on his odometer, can it be possible that the cyborg known as “The King” is finally feeling the effects of being a thirteen year NBA veteran? This is one of the major reasons why James wanted to leave Miami, he knew he was getting older and he did not believe in their future. In Cleveland, James has a top 20 NBA player that he wants to get more involved, Kevin Love.
Love had his struggles last season, adjusting to a new team was not easy, but Love still had his moments during the season, and he was an even bigger loss in the playoffs when he could no longer play after a shoulder injury. While this season is still young--hello small sample size--it is evident that the Cavs want to get Love more involved in their offense.
*Photo via USA Today
Love’s Usage Rate is up from 20.4 in 2014-15 to 25.7 this season, that 25.7 number is much more in line with what Love was used to in Minnesota. The impact on Love’s game has been clear, as is his PER has risen from 18.89 to 24.95, again, very similar to his numbers while he was on the Timberwolves. This is a great sign for Love and the Cavs, if he can perform like he did in Minnesota, this offense will be nearly impossible to defend.
What does this mean for James? He is, of course, still being as efficient as ever as he is shooting 52% from the field with 7.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game--again, small sample size--but his minutes per game are down to the lowest of his career, 33.5 per game. James and the Cavs clearly have seen the need to get James more rest and have him as fresh as possible for the playoffs.
Mind you, this is all being done without a cornerstone of this Cavs team, Kyrie Irving. This is a great time to get Love going and to get his confidence up. This team had an incredible second half of the season last year with Love not performing at an elite level like he was in Minnesota. If these early trends continue, and Irving comes back healthy, this team has to be the clear Finals favorite.
*Stats and info via B-ball reference and ESPN