Hot Take Marathon: Kevin Love Returns to His All-Star Ways
Move over Dr. Dre; the NBA forgot about Love.
Not that you can blame them. When Kevin Love became a decided second-to-third wheel in Cleveland, it was easier to picture the Banana Republic model spotting up in the corner rather than the burly force in the Minnesota paint. He came to Cleveland to win a ring and now he has one, but like Chris Bosh before him, Love sacrificed to get there. Gone were the days of the 26-13; 17-9 became more common. But when LeBron James left town, Love once again became the sun instead of an orbiting planet, and a healthy Kevin Love is a dangerous thing.
As the centerpiece of the post-James Cavs, Love started out with a flourish, putting up 19 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game in the Cavs’ first four before missing the next fifty to injury. The Cavs, not eager to ruin their draft odds, eased him back in, but in the half a dozen games down the homestretch where they let him play 30+ minutes, we saw glimpses of his old self, putting up 20.8-11.2-2.7: All-Star numbers.
In the West, good numbers for a bad team can be beaten by good numbers for a good team, but in the East, there are lots of bad teams, and fewer exceptional players, so opportunities arise. It also happens that one of the East forward spots was held down by the departed Kawhi Leonard, and while Kevin Durant will be on the Brooklyn roster, he won’t be playing in the coming All-Star Game if any game this coming season. There’s a forward spot open in the East.
The Cavs are also unlikely to be as god-awful this year as last. They’re bringing in three first round picks -- a serious talent infusion to a roster of mismatched pieces last year. As they picked through the bargain bin in an otherwise lost season, the Cavs made their way through twenty-seven players last year, several of whom won’t find themselves on opening day rosters this October. This year they have an actual balance of veteran experience and youthful promise in need of a centerpiece: Love is that player.
In addition, they’ll be led by a new coach in whom they’ve made a serious long-term investment, rather than a lame-duck assistant pressed into service after a quick trigger fire two weeks in. Say what you will about the unexpectedness of the John Beilein hire, but the man can coach. He turned under-recruited players into first-round picks with regularity at Michigan, including D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner. Teams took those players in the first round hoping they could become half of what Kevin Love was in his worst season; imagine what he’ll do with actual Kevin Love!
The answer is: return him to his former glory. Love will be averaging a 20 and 10 when the All-Star voting comes around, and even if he doesn’t find himself starting in Chicago, Kevin Love will be a six-time All-Star when all is said and done.