Kevin Love: 2017 Cavaliers Team More Talented Than Title-Winning 2016 Team

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 9, 2020

CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 7: Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers smiles after the game on March 7, 2020 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love said Thursday he felt the team's roster during the 2016-17 season was more talented than the one that captured the 2016 NBA championship.

Love explained during an appearance on the Ledlow & Parker podcast the Cavs, led by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, couldn't muster the same type of competitive fire after winning the franchise's first title:

"In 2017, I actually think that was our most talented team. And that was one where like, we're three years in, some of the jokes aren't as funny anymore, stuff is falling on deaf ears or it's raining hollow. Everybody's kinda like, 'Oh, we'll figure it out during the playoffs.' So we're not trending or hitting on all cylinders on the time that we should.

"Then of course we come out and we're like, 'Oh, this is easy, we're just gonna make it to the Finals and we're gonna give it our best shot.' Had we really locked in that I feel like could have been—cause it's only this much between winning and losing—I felt like that was our most talented team and I think we only won one game in the Finals."

Cleveland signed Deron Williams and Derrick Williams in free agency after winning the title then acquired Kyle Korver in a January 2017 trade to provide shooting off the bench for the playoffs.

It didn't translate into improved results, though. The Cavs posted a 51-31 record, six games worse than their championship season, to finish second in the Eastern Conference and ultimately provided little resistance to the star-studded Warriors, losing three games by at least 19 points in the Finals.

The lopsided 2017 championship series also marked the beginning of the end for that construction of the Cavaliers' roster.

Irving requested a trade and was sent to the Boston Celtics in a blockbuster deal that summer. Richard Jefferson was also dealt, and James Jones retired before the following season. Iman Shumpert and Channing Frye were moved before the 2018 trade deadline.

The Cavs still managed to reach the 2018 Finals, but they were swept by the Warriors and James then left in free agency to join the Los Angeles Lakers. It started a full-scale rebuild in Cleveland.

Love told Jason Lloyd of The Athletic on Wednesday he wishes the team enjoyed one final run together, similar to the one depicted in The Last Dance documentary about the 1990s Chicago Bulls, rather than the slow breakup that didn't result in another title.

"To even have just one more run at it, to see what we were capable of. Just one more run. I would've really loved to see that," he said. "I think we would've been primed for another really big run. Even if it was, for both of them, their last year in Cleveland. It would've been nice to see what we were capable of."

Instead, Love and Tristan Thompson are the last key contributors from those teams still on the roster.