Complete Predictions for Kevin Love's Role, Stats with Cleveland Cavaliers

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Complete Predictions for Kevin Love's Role, Stats with Cleveland Cavaliers
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Kevin Love will be making his way southeast to Cleveland this fall to join the Cleveland Cavaliers, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. This we know.

What's yet to be determined is how he'll fit in with the Cavs.

Having long been the No. 1 option on underachieving Minnesota Timberwolves squads for the past six seasons, Love will now be second fiddle to LeBron James in Cleveland.

Or will that be third fiddle behind 2014 All-Star Game MVP Kyrie Irving?

After putting up eye-popping stats last season, can we realistically expect similar numbers within a highly upgraded surrounding roster?

Love will certainly have to make some adjustments and sacrifices to his game now with the Cavaliers.

Here's what to expect from Love in his new Cleveland home.

 

Lineup, Position and Minutes

It's probably a safe assumption that Love will win the power forward job between James and Anderson Varejao in the starting lineup. This means a move to the bench for Tristan Thompson, a rebounding aficionado whose offense and defense still needs a lot of work.

While he'll start at the 4, Love should also see some time at center when coach David Blatt chooses to run a smaller lineup with James at power forward. While undersized, a post of Love and James would be the greatest offensive tandem in the game today.

Rebounding shouldn't be an issue, as their 19.4 combined boards in 2013-14 would still be a greater collection than the Cavs' post starters gathered last year (Thompson and Varejao, 18.9). It's worth noting that both Thompson and Varejao were ranked in the top 19 in rebounding last season; they were certainly no slouches when it came time to cleaning the glass.

Primarily a power forward throughout his career, Love saw extended time at center last season. With the Wolves in 2013-14, Love spent 39 percent of his minutes at center, up from just 18 percent the year before.

USA TODAY Sports
While not his natural position, Love played a good amount of center last season.

Standing 6'10" and weighing in at 260 pounds, Love has the size to play center even if he isn't a strong defender or shot-blocking threat. His defensive issues are well-known, even though Minnesota didn't suffer because of Love on that end of the floor.

Per 48 minutes of play, Love had a PER of 35.0 at center while holding opponents to a 17.7 PER, via 82games.com. While his defense at power forward was much better (14.2 opponent PER), his offense also saw a drop (26.1 PER).

Love's proven capable of playing center, and he may have to given the Cavs' current depth at the position.

While Varejao is a solid starter, he's a perennial injury concern. The primary backup right now? Brendan Haywood, who missed the entire 2013-14 season with a foot injury. His status for this year is uncertain.

This leaves Love and Thompson to pick up minutes there, even if they're both better off at the power forward position.

When talking about total minutes, Love may not see as big of a drop-off going from Minnesota to Cleveland as one might expect.

One comparison is Chris Bosh's transition from the Toronto Raptors to the Miami Heat in 2010. Like Love, Bosh was the go-to guy for his team before taking a back seat to James.

Surprisingly, Bosh's minutes actually went up (36.1 to 36.3) after making the trip down south. Miami lacked quality big men, and Bosh was needed to eat up minutes even with James around.

Love could be in a similar situation. He played 36.3 minutes a game last season, right on par for what a star player should be getting.

While Thompson is a fine young player who needs his own court time, he won't necessarily just be receiving Love's leftover minutes with the Cavs' need at center. 

There are 96 minutes a game to be split between power forward and center. That's an average of 32 per player between Love, Varejao and Thompson.

Varejao was at 27.7 minutes a night last season, a number that should go down to help preserve his soon-to-be 32-year-old body. Thompson won't get 32 as a backup either, leaving Love to stay at his 36.3-minute average of a season ago or possibly exceed it.

 

Stats and Numbers

Love put up some ridiculous digits last season, averaging 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.5 three-pointers made. It was the first time in NBA history anyone had gone over the 20, 12, four and one marks.

Will Love reach these same stats with Cleveland? Probably not, now that he's sharing a basketball with James, Irving and Dion Waiters instead of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic.

Again, we go back to Bosh and the impact joining a Big Three had on his numbers.

Here are some of Bosh's key stats from his last year in Toronto and first in Miami:

Bosh's Stat Changes MIN PTS REB AST BLK FG% PER
2009-10 w/Raptors 36.1 24.0 10.8 2.4 1.0 51.8 25.0
2010-11 w/Heat 36.3 18.7 8.3 1.9 0.6 49.6 19.4

While his minutes were similar, Bosh's stats did see quite a decrease, as expected.

What was surprising to see was that his efficiency stats (field-goal percentage, PER) fell as well. One would think playing with James and Dwyane Wade would only help to create more open looks, thus increasing his shooting percentage.

Another key area to look at is usage percentage, or an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while on the floor. Bosh's usage was 28.7 percent in his final season with the Raptors before dropping to 23.5 upon joining the Heat.

Claus Andersen/Getty Images
Bosh had to sacrafice personal stats to join James. Will Love do the same?

Love should experience a similar drop.

His usage rate came in at 28.8 percent last season, almost exactly on par with Bosh's own previous mark.

The difference being, of course, that Love is a superior offensive player to Bosh. He's a better rebounder, more versatile scorer and can pass the ball as well as any big man in the league today.

Bill Simmons of Grantland describes Love's game this way:

For one thing, he’s a freak rebounder — as gifted as Rodman and Moses at their respective peaks, blessed with magically soft hands and a psychic ability to read where caroms are headed. He’s just inventive enough on the low post that you probably need to send a second guy at him, and he’s good enough from 24 feet that you can never leave him alone.

Will Love's numbers take a hit? Sure, but some more than others.

For one, Cleveland won't need Love to score 26 points a game, or probably even 20 for that matter. James has a career scoring average of 27.5 points, Irving has dropped 20.7 a night and Waiters checks in at 15.3.

A good estimate for Love would be in the 18-20 point-per-game range. He'll get enough open looks from deep and pick-and-pop action with Irving to keep pouring the ball into the basket.

Rebounding has always been a strong point for Love, and he shouldn't falter too much even next to a vacuum like Varejao. Look for the 12.5 boards a game he pulled down a year ago to drop into the 10-11 per-game area.

Could we actually see an increase in assists from Love's 4.4 a game last season? He consistently found players like Corey Brewer sprinting down the court for an outlet pass with the Timberwolves. Imagine the damage Love could do throwing darts to James in the open court.

In Blatt's Princeton-based offense, the post players do handle the ball and in some cases make the key pass leading to baskets. Love should thrive in this role, as he's grown into more of a playmaker and has improved his court vision. Who's to say Love's assist numbers won't crack five or more a game?

 

Final Stat, Minute Projections

Given Love's new role with the Cavaliers and his turning into a second or third option, here's what we can expect from Cleveland's newest star.

An All-Star out West, Love should now find himself on the Eastern Conference honor squad. While his numbers may not be quite as impressive, they'll be far more meaningful.

Kevin Love with Cavaliers MIN PTS REB AST BLK FG% USG% PER
2014-15 Projected Stats 36.5 19.7 10.8 5.1 0.4 47.1 24.0 23.5

 

All stats provided by Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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