This season was an entertaining one when it comes to the Cleveland Cavaliers as a group, as they surprised everybody with 44 wins, and even with a rough closing stretch, fans should be optimistic about next season.
One of the more shocking elements to this now-past season was the play of veteran stretch big Kevin Love, who was terrific in a move to a bench supersub-type role. There were rumors of him prior to the season shifting to a bench role, but it was difficult to know what to expect from him if that were to occur.
Love was coming off a few underwhelming seasons, and had been active in only 25 games in 2020-21, and there had been some moments of visible frustration on the floor in-game the prior two seasons. That was more so in 2019-20, when he was mostly healthy, for context.
Either way, it was far from a certainty as to whether or not Love would legitimately be fully bought into a bench role. We didn’t know what to really anticipate from the Cavaliers, either.
Thankfully, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen and the group exceeded expectations and Love himself had a resurgent year, and rebounded after a somewhat off start to the season. He had a bounce-back campaign, and did an outstanding job in his new role, en route to having 13.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per outing, in just 22.5 minutes per game.
Love hit 39.2 percent of his three-point attempts, and often gave the team a heck of a spark off the bench. He did not end up winning it, but Love finished as the runner-up for the Sixth Man of the Year, of which he went to Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat.
All in all, it was a near-cherry on top for Love finishing in a second for that award, and to me, there’s clarity regarding his outlook for next season, which is reassuring.
Clarity with Love’s outlook with the Cavs next season is reassuring.
As we’ve demonstrated, this move to a bench shooter role for Love was the right call for him and the team as a group. And next season, based on how the team managed his minutes this season, I think it’s pretty reasonable for him to have a near-encore campaign.
Love played, on average, less than 23 minutes per contest this year, but that proved to be the right move from a health standpoint for preserving him throughout the season, which was his 14th, and he was very efficient.
Obviously he’s not a player that’s regularly going to be playing near the minutes-share he was earlier on in his Cavaliers tenure, however, Love having the scoring and rebounding splits he had was notable. Per-36 minutes, he also had 21.8 points and 11.6 rebounds, which was impressive, considering his up-and-down recent years.
So, to reiterate, while he’ll again be coming off the bench as realistically the sixth or seven man for the Wine and Gold, it is reassuring to know that there’s clarity with Love’s outlook heading into 2022-23. One could foresee him having a similar role as a key catch-and-shoot player, mixed in with some mid-post looks, and for him to help as a screener, secondary playmaker and rebounder.
Now, Love will be on an expiring deal in the last year of his prior four-year contract extension, and this next season he’s set to make $28.9 million. So, perhaps he could end up being an expiring trade asset.
That said, Love has made noticeable strides as a leader, and this role suits him perfectly. With those aspects in mind, maybe he sticks, and potentially he and team could potentially agree on a fairly team-friendly extension possibly before next season.
He is going to be in his age-34 season to come in 2022-23, though. Either way, next year at least, it’s nice to know there’s clarity, seemingly, with Love’s role outlook.