Over the last few years, Kevin Love‘s NBA career seemed to be in eclipse.
After being a key part of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2016 championship team, his production declined while he dealt with recurring injuries year after year.
Many fans criticized him for various reasons while wishing the Cavs would trade him for some type of young, viable player or perhaps a draft pick.
However, the market for Love was scant, and he remained in The Land.
This past season, against seemingly all expectations, he had a mini-renaissance, averaging 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game while shooting a stellar 39.2 percent from 3-point territory.
He did all that while accepting a reduced role off the bench, the first time he hasn’t started consistently since his second season in the NBA.
If the Cavs will not trade Love this summer, the question is whether he is capable of another strong season.
Love Has Been Through The Ringer
After LeBron James left town in 2018 and rendered the Cavs a bad team, Kevin Love went through one of the toughest, if not the toughest, spans of his career.
From 2019 to 2021, he played in a total of just 103 games, while his production and efficiency dipped.
Plenty of Cavs fans wanted him gone, feeling like he had outlived his usefulness to the team and that he didn’t fit the timeline of its rebuilding process.
Love would reveal that he was also dealing with mental health issues during that time.
After Cleveland drafted big man prodigy Evan Mobley last summer, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff moved Love to the bench, and perhaps the reduced workload and minutes helped Love physically and mentally.
He played the lowest number of minutes per contest of his career in 2022, and such a change in an aging star’s role is always difficult to accept, but Love accepted it.
This past season, he had a box plus/minus of 4.5, which was his highest since coming to Cleveland in 2014, and his 5.7 win shares were by far his highest since James’ last season in town.
But perhaps most importantly, he played in 74 games, the most since 2016.
A Better Roster May Be Making Love Better
The big improvement in Love’s game has been his 3-point shooting, and it’s something Cleveland sorely needed, as only two other rotation players shot better than 36 percent from downtown.
With Mobley and Jarrett Allen manning the paint and throwing down dunks, it has given Love more space to fire away from the perimeter while focusing more on doing so.
His 10.3 3-point attempts per 36 minutes this past season was a career-high, and unlike some players, his efficiency was very strong despite the added volume of such shots.
But another thing that has likely helped Love’s game is the emergence of Darius Garland as an All-Star and an incredible passer.
Love has become tight with Garland, and the big man has even called Garland his “little brother.”
Darius Garland/Kevin Love run the2-man flare (when i get doubled, you shoot) pic.twitter.com/ybEHWj1NjK
— Big Picture Kinda Guy (@highmusings718) January 25, 2022
nice little ATO play by the cavs. a pinch post series with a stagger twirl for a darius garland catch and shoot three. jeff green is forced to react because of garland's ability as a shooter and that leaves kevin love with enough airspace to nail the three pic.twitter.com/aT8s66rlx9
— klaus mikaelson (@ghost1ace) March 21, 2022
As Mobley continues to develop his offensive game and draws more defensive attention as a result, perhaps staying healthy will most of the battle for Love when it comes to repeating his production from ’22.