The Power of Love
It's no secret the Cavs have been awful this year after LeBron James left.
About the only thing surprising about the season is that the Lakers have been more disappointing -- but that's not why we're here. What most fans forget is that the Cavs have effectively lost not one, but two All-Stars: though Kevin Love is still on the roster, he was knocked out with an injury after just four games this season.
Though all four games were losses, Love looked as though he would be living up to his four-year $120 million extension and leadership role. He put up a 19-13.5-3.5 points-rebounds-assists per game stat line, and was setting the tone for the team in professionalism and effort. Then came his injury, coach Ty Lue was fired, and the Cavs season spiraled out of control.
Fast forward 50 games, and the Cavs finally got Love back -- surprise, surprise: they look like a real basketball team! Though he sat out back-to-backs and other games here and there, here's what's true about the Cavs in his ten games back:
1. The Cavs are winning. They are 6-4 in those games, and though that includes wins over fellow bottom-feeders New York and Phoenix, it also includes East playoff teams like Orlando and Toronto.
2. He's picked up where he left off. Even including his training-wheels-on first two games back where he played six and fifteen minutes respectively, Love is still putting up 17.5-10.5-2.
3. His teammates are playing better. Collin Sexton is up to nearly 19 points a game, while shooting over 42 percent from downtown. Larry Nance Jr. is posting a 10-8-3 playing off of his stretchy frontcourt mate. Cedi Osman is up to a 15-6-4; the most promising members of the Cavs' core are all playing their best ball of the season -- if not their careers -- with Love back in the Wine & Gold.
Though some suspected that the changes to the lottery system would hurt the Cavs, who had such tremendous success under the old system, but this year, the Cavs' development has really been assisted. Under the old rules, the Cavs may have been incentivized to keep Love on the bench, since every win would have hurt their lottery odds.
Instead, with the bottom three teams having equal odds of getting the first overall pick, the Cavs aren't penalized for picking up a few wins and building their young players' confidence before the calendar flips over to garbage time. It's really the best of both worlds for Cleveland: they've been so terrible that they can play hard and win games and not affect their tanking in any way.
It's encouraging for everyone involved in the Cavs, from ownership all the way down to the fan base that this is how the Cavs can look when they're healthy and whole. There may yet be life in Cleveland after Bron.