Is Kevin Love The Answer?

Danny Ainge was reportedly talking to Kevin Love’s agent, are the Celtics going to make a push for him this off-season?

The Cleveland Cavaliers were able to force a Game 7 last night but that didn’t stop the Boston Celtics from already being linked to Kevin Love this off-season. The Kevin Love experiment in Cleveland has seemingly failed and his stock is as low as ever. The Celtics are looking to land a star player this off-season, could that be Love?

RealGM reported that Danny Ainge and Love’s agent Jeff Schwartz met yesterday. To be fair, he also represents soon-to-be free agent Harrison Barnes and future NBA rookie Brandon Ingram. Therefore, the meeting could have been about the likelihood of Barnes leaving Golden State or the chances Ingram falls to Boston at three, however, it’s hard to imagine that Ainge didn’t inquire about Love once.

It seems like a perceived notion that the Cavaliers will shop Kevin Love this off-season, especially if they fall short in Game 7. The power forward hasn’t been the same player since being traded to Cleveland, however, that didn’t stop him from signing a $5 year, $113 million deal last summer. Love is set to receive $21.5M, $22.5M, $24M, and $25.5M over the next four seasons, and Cleveland would love to get that off their books.

The Cavaliers would much rather use that money somewhere else and also try to land a more valuable pick in the upcoming draft, even if it’s not a top-five selection.

Cleveland tried to turn Love into what Miami turned Chris Bosh into when LeBron spent four seasons with the Heat. They have him hang on the perimeter where most of his shots come from behind the arc now – 44.9 percent of shots. It has led to a significant decrease in his scoring and rebounding production as a result.

In Love’s final season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he posted an incredible 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. He was one of the best rebounding big men in the NBA at the time, however, now he is nothing more than LeBron’s sidekick who makes a lot of mistakes.

Over his career, his game has evolved towards the three-point line, although, last season was the first time in his career that he attempted less than 20 percent of his shots at the basket – 17.3 percent. Last season, Love only attempted 21.3 percent of his shots inside of three feet – he was never under 25 percent in Minnesota.

Part of the reason is that’s how big men have to play nowadays, however, the Cavaliers have banished his role in the paint. You rarely see Love post-up down low anymore, he’s used as a kick-out option for a driving teammate. Not only does it not fit his offensive game but it also cuts into his rebounding – the strongest part of his game.

Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Love has recorded a 30-rebound game, led the league in rebounds per game (15.2) during the 2010-11 season, and held the highest offensive rebounding percentage over his first two NBA seasons.

Although, Love has failed to average a double-double over the past two seasons with Cleveland, the first time since his rookie year. His rebounding rate during the playoffs this year has gone down even more as he’s averaged only 8.5 boards per contest, including only three rebounds over 12 minutes in Game 6.

Playing on a better rebounding team is a reason why his numbers have gone down, however, there’s no doubt his mostly perimeter game has turned him into a near non-factor on the offensive glass. Love averaged a measly 1.9 offensive rebounds per game over the past two seasons – former lowest was 2.9 offensive rebounds per contest.

The fact of the matter is Kevin Love rarely plays in the paint anymore and it’s made people forget about how productive he once was. Over the past five seasons, in which he attempted at least five threes per game, Love has never shot above 38 percent from three. He’s a solid three-point shooter for a big man but it shouldn’t be his whole game, and that’s why he’s struggled so much with Cleveland.

That could be a good sign for Boston though as he would still be a great addition to the Celtics but at a cheaper price. Love can run the floor extremely well and having a big man who can space the floor but also score inside is what the Celtics have been missing. In fact, Love is a career 59.3 percent finisher at the basket.

He’s the type of player you can feed the ball to in the post and let go to work. With Tristan Thompson playing so well in the paint, Cleveland doesn’t want to clog up the lane because that’s how LeBron James and Kyrie Irving do most of their scoring. Therefore, they prefer to have Love on the perimeter.

Even though Love would be a great addition to the Celtics on offense, his defense is still a concern. Love isn’t the quickest and doesn’t block a lot of shots, which has forced the Cavaliers to use Richard Jefferson when needing an athletic defender. Although, with the way Jared Sullinger played in the paint this past postseason, anything can be seen as an upgrade.

Adding a pick-and-roll player like Kevin Love would make the Celtics better, but he’s not the missing piece. Just like Isaiah Thomas, he can’t do it all. He never led the Timberwolves to the playoffs during his six seasons there – whether that being his fault or the management’s – but he can definitely act as the Chris Bosh of a ‘Big 3’ in the right system.

With that being said, there’s no reason to overpay for Love if the Cavaliers’ asking price is too high. He’s a very good player who can be part of a ‘Big 3’ but he’s not the missing piece that’s going to bring the Celtics their 18th title. After two disappointing seasons and four years left on a max contract, the Cavaliers can’t be too greedy, which could lead to the Celtics getting a steal this off-season.