The Cleveland Cavaliers are taking early steps to become even better this season.
Despite having the fourth-best offense in the NBA last season, much of their scoring relied on LeBron James and Kyrie Irving creating for themselves or others.
Meanwhile, Kevin Love was cast aside as a glorified role player.
The Cavs traded for Love in the 2014 offseason, and then marginalized his role on offense, fueling an awkward dynamic between Love, James, and coach David Blatt that resonated throughout the season.
Love went from one of the ten best offensive players in the NBA to seeing his scoring average fall eight points per game, shot attempts fall by six, rebounds fall by three, and assists fall by two per game compared to the previous year.
This season, the Cavaliers say they’re making Love more of a focal point of the offense, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.
LeBron first suggested that Love will have a bigger role when talking about his own playing time on Monday’s media day.
“I think we have enough pieces to [reduce his own minutes],” James said. “And I think Kevin Love will allow me to sit a lot this year just because of his ability – what he’s able to do. Kyrie as well. So I won’t have to worry about playing big minutes this year.”
On Wednesday, James continued, adding:
“I just think [Love’s] more comfortable in the situation that he’s in. He’s got a year under his belt; he knows what he expects out of himself, and what his teammates expect out of him. I expect big things from him this year with a year up under his belt.”
Blatt agreed with James’ sentiment, saying, “No question, this summer we looked for and identified ways that we can take advantage of Kev’s unique skill set, and hopefully we’ll see that on the floor.” Blatt said they’ll involve Love in more plays and give him more responsibility on offense.
While Love’s basic numbers fell last year – something that was bound to happen when joining LeBron and Irving – two other stats show how the Cavs underutilized Love’s incredible skills on offense. His usage rate, which measures shot attempts, free-throw attempts, and turnovers, fell from 28% in 2013-2014 to 21% in 2014-2015.
Additionally, Love’s percentage of shots from two-point range fell from 64.5% to 58.8% last year, while his three-point attempts rose 35.5% to 41%. His shots zero to three feet (basically at the rim) fell from 25% to 21%.
Love is simply too talented to be reduced to a stretch-four role. While he’s an excellent three-point shooter, he also has skills as a post-up, pick-and-roll, or pick-and-pop player, and he can even be useful in the high post as a shooter or passer.
If the Cavs are serious about giving Love a bigger role and finding ways to incorporate his unique talents, they could be the best offense in the NBA this season.