Kevin Love was suffering under head coach David Blatt. And although the team was doing well overall (1st in the Eastern Conference), they were not getting the most they could get out of Love. He was looking more like a spot-up three point shooter and terrible defender. And as a result of that, Love would disappear a lot in the offense and defensively would be taken advantage in pick-and–roll situations. With his role being an issue there in Blatt’s offense, there were rumors that the team would look to trade him. It just was not going to work out for him and it looked like he was being forced into the action instead of the action flowing through him and the rest of his teammates. But ever since Blatt got fired, it seems like Love has been the answer for the Cavaliers. He has scored 20+ points three of the last five games. He scored 20+ points at a pace like this earlier in the seaon. But this time around, it looks a little different and he looks like a part of the offense instead of a round peg in a square hole. Lue has definitely tapped into what he thinks he can make happen for Love. And because of that, it seems like he is slowly becoming comfortable in The Land.
The role of Love offensively has always been one to question. He was a excellent shooter, rebounder and scorer for the Minnesota Timberwolves and averaged 20+ points and 10 rebounds a game three of his six seasons as a member of the Timberwolves. When he was picked up by Cleveland, it was expected that he would be a big man that could space the floor and help create lanes for LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on the offensive end. Love has been shooting 37% this season from distance. But that is not all his game is. Love can be active in the post and he can also be active at the high post/elbow area. Under Blatt, it seemed like he never incorporated him in the high post/elbow area or the low post. LeBron would normally inhabit the post on one side and for some reason, they would not even bring Love to the high post. And as a result, he was almost a bystander in their offense. The first thing Lue said in regards to Love is that he would be getting him more involved in the offense. And Lue so far has been true to his word. Love has been getting the basketball more on the block and at the elbow since the coaching change. And as a result, he has been more active offensively and made more plays. And as time goes on, his presence offensively will help make things easier for LeBron and Kyrie Irving.
One thing that always used to happen to Love defensively was him being exposed in the pick-and-roll. Teams like the Golden State Warriors would spot who he was guarding and put whoever he was guarding in a pick-and-roll scenario. The results were usually a wide-open layup by the person getting the screen or the screener getting an open shot, whether it be a layup or a three-pointer. And because of that lackluster defense, Love would often find himself sitting the bench at crucial times. But Lue has not sat love in crucial moments since he has been there. And to his credit, Love has not harmed them as much defensively at critical times up to this point. Love, however, cannot take all the credit for the defensive adjustments. Tyronn Lue realized that Love’s limited foot quickness would be something he would have to compensate for. So with that in mind, he has used his defensive rotations just a touch quicker. The result is covering up for Love should he be out of position on defense. And what it also means is that Love has a seemingly predetermined decision on how to handle the pick-and-roll. There is no grey area and there are pieces around him that also understand that and are quick enough to cover him. The combination of recognition from the coach and knowing where you are supposed to be by Love has helped him actually make a few plays on defense. For example, the questionable charge he took against the Pacers Monday night probably would have never happened under the old regime. And along with that, Love would have never had that block in overtime would he had not been in the correct position. Those two instances show me that Love is capable of playing sold defense and can get the job done when positioned right by Lue.
The way the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing right now, they seem to be fitting more under Lue than they did Blatt. Tyronn seems to have their attention front and clear. And in having their full attention, Lue captured the attention of the Big Three there, especially Love. And because of that, the Cavs are starting to get comfortable with Love being out there with him than at any point in his tenure there. Chris Bosh tried to tell Love how the fit would work but Love reportedly has not responded. It has been a rough go for him there as the third wheel. As the season goes on, the Cavs will have more time to get comfortable with Love and the way he is being used. And for the Cavs, this coaching change may end up helping them.