Tha Sports Junkies 101

Is Kevin Love Back To Being Kevin Love?


Kevin Love is on fire this season, but is he back to his Minnesota ways?

Kevin Love did what I thought I would never see him do again, and that was score 40 points in one game. What was especially surprising about his scoring outburst against the weak Portland front line was the fact that he scored THIRTY-FOUR POINTS in the first quarter alone. 34. That’s the second most points scored in one quarter in NBA history (Remember when Klay torched the Kings for 37 in the 3rd last year? I’ll never forget that until I die). Love started the game 8-8 from deep, although he would miss his next four and finish at 8-12 and 12-20 from the field. He finished with 8 rebounds, 3 assists, only one turnover and a perfect 8-8 from the charity stripe. Lebron managed to finish with a triple-double last night and there wasn’t even so much as a tweet sent out about it. 

Love was on fire last night, he was never hesitant with the ball, taking any look he thought would go in, something you might think would be normal for a sharp-shooter like Love, but his first two years in Cleveland have shown otherwise. It’s great to see Love get his shot rolling and show some glimpses of the 3-time all star we saw in Minnesota. But has Love actually been performing at the same level he was when he was in Minny?

So far this season, Love is averaging 21.8 PPG and 10.8 RPG, both are numbers he hasn’t been able to attain since his last year in Minnesota in 2013.

Love is shooting almost 38% from deep this season, his highest mark since 2010. He has also scored 20 or more in 7 of his 13 games, including the 40 point explosion last night. He has scored at least 12 points in every game this season, too.

Love’s PER is currently sitting at 24.3, the highest since 2013. In the last 2 seasons, Love never got his PER to crack 20.

Probably the most notable stat to me this season is the comparison in his free throw rate over the past couple years. In his first two years in Cleveland, Love only averaged 4.2 FTAs per game, the lowest since he was a rookie, shooting at a clip of about 82%. This season he is up to 7 FTAs per game shooting almost 85%. Love is attacking the paint more confidently than he has the past two seasons and he’s getting rewarded for it.

In his first two years with the Cavs, Love was taking around 13 shots per game while shooting about 42% from the field. Through 13 games this season, Love is taking over 15 shots per game while shooting 45% from the field. Love is taking more shots while still being a more efficient shooter than the last 2 seasons.

One of the main issues so far with Love’s time in Cleveland was that he didn’t seem to get the touches he was getting in Minnesota, which is entirely understandable if you take a look at who he’s playing with, but Love’s usage rate this season is 27.8%, compared to 23.4% last year and 21.7% the year before. It took longer than anticipated, but it would seem that Kevin Love is finally meshing with the Cavs team, an incredibly scary sight for the rest of the league. If the Cavs can do what they did last year but with a more efficient Kevin Love, there may not be a team that can beat them, and that includes the Warriors. 

There was one play that really stood out to me last night. Kevin Love got the ball in the post from Kyrie (Love was already 7-7 from 3 at this point) and began to back down the lengthy and athletic Miles Plumlee. Love backed down Plumlee for a couple steps, turned for a hook shot but was blocked, the ball fell back to his hands and instead of panicking and rushing a pass or shot like he has the past two years, Love regained control, backed Plumlee down a few steps, then drilled a turnaround, fadeaway jumper right in Plumlee’s face. It was magical, it felt like I was watching the rebirth of a star. 

Kevin Love knows he doesn’t have to go out and score 40 every night, but I think it took him until this season to figure that out. If he lets the game come to him and he plays the way he knows he can, the way he has shown fans for years in Minnesota, his play will continue to improve. He’s one of the best stretch fours in the league that no one talks about and he’s trying to right the ship. How many guys to ever play in the league could go out and average 20/10 while shooting at least 35% from deep? I’ll tell you who: Larry Bird, thats it, and he’s done it twice while Kevin Love has done it 3 times (if Love continues the path he’s on this year, he would do it for a 4th time)

I’ve gotten the chance to watch Love grow as a Cavalier and until this season, I hadn’t seen much progress. His confidence is at an all time high and it’s showed on the court. Even though the Cavs are only 13 games into the season, Love looks like a different player and he makes the Cavs that much better. I expect his stats to decline a tiny bit throughout the season as with most players, but if his confidence remains high and he continues to play comfortably, Cleveland will finally have that Big 3 everyone was talking about in 2014. 

Now if he could just work on his defense in the paint…


(Stats via Basketball-Reference)