Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love Focuses On Goals, Not Prior History

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NBA championship must be only goal for new-look Cleveland Cavaliers

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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- It was something neither Mike Miller nor James Jones wanted to admit when they were introduced as free agents for the Cleveland Cavaliers two weeks ago. LeBron James has dodged it, instead hoping to focus on the "process." General Manager David Griffin won't say it either. But after the Cavs' most recent move in what has become a landmark off-season, there's only one thing that will make the 2014-15 season a success: an NBA championship.

The Cavaliers have been to the Finals as recently as 2007, but the Larry O'Brien Trophy has been elusive. Perhaps not for long – not after the Cavs pulled off a trade for Kevin Love, the best power forward in the NBA.

The title crown currently belongs to San Antonio. It was earned after the Spurs had their way with the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals this past season. The best coach in the NBA, Gregg Popovich, is on their side. They also have a battle-tested Big 3, which refuses to fade away. During free agency, when the focus was on James and Carmelo Anthony, the Spurs quietly went about their business, re-signing Patty Mills and Boris Diaw to ensure the roster wouldn't change in pursuit of a repeat.

Oklahoma City, Chicago and the Los Angeles Clippers also pose threats to the youthful Cavs. Experience is not their ally, but they have edge in talent unlike James' first tenure in Cleveland.

James' new supporting cast rivals his from Miami, which went to four straight NBA Finals. It might be even better thanks to the addition of Love, who has been underappreciated for years.

Love has his doubters. The main criticisms center on his defense and win-loss record. It's true. Love has never stepped foot on the playoff stage, but it has more to do with poor management and roster decisions while in Minnesota. After all, the Timberwolves selected both Ricky Rubio and now-out-of-the-league Jonny Flynn ahead of Stephen Curry in the 2009 NBA Draft, one year after getting Love. That's just one of the many errors the franchise made as it made frequent trips to the lottery. 

It won't be long before the secret is out. The one that Wolves' fans have been privy to for years: Love is one of the best players in the NBA.

During his career year this past season, the three-time NBA All-Star averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds. He also added 4.4 assists, making him the first player since the NBA/ABA merger to average at least 26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists per game. With 2,010 points, 963 rebounds, and 190 three-pointers he became the only player in NBA history to have at least 2,000 points, 900 rebounds and 100 three-pointers in a single season.

Love's hardly an empty stats machine on a floundering team.

According to, the Timberwolves outscored opponents by 4.4 points per 100 possessions with Love on the floor. He was also ranked 3rd in PER, which is a formula ESPN uses to measure player efficiency. The two players ahead of him were James and Kevin Durant.

With Love, James and Irving, the Cavs possess three of the Top 15 scorers in the NBA. No other team has a roster with two. It's the best Big 3 in the league. It's better than San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Chicago, Golden State, Washington or anyone else.

When James announced his return in a Sports Illustrated essay, he spoke of a potentially long quest to delivering on his promise from years ago - bringing a title to Cleveland. The Cavs could have retained Wiggins and Bennett, banking on their upside, but General Manager David Griffin elected for an aggressive approach.

Thanks to his hard work and the recruiting of James, the Cavs' potential starting five is as daunting as the league has seen. The five players combined to average 98.3 points, which was more than the Cavs averaged as a team during a disappointing 2013-14 season. It was also more than Eastern Conference playoff teams Charlotte, Indiana and Chicago - which played the season with Derrick Rose on the sidelines.

The Cavs' talent goes beyond the starting lineup.

A bolstered bench includes Mike Miller, James Jones and Shawn Marion, who has agreed to a deal, while not yet being made official. Tristan Thompson, who has been a starter the last two seasons, will likely accept a new role as one of the stabilizers of head coach David Blatt's second unit. And sharpshooter Ray Allen could also be on the way, provided he holds off on retirement for one last title run. 

Thanks to biggest transformation the league has seen in one off-season, the Cavs, winners of 97 games the last four years, have gone from Eastern Conference doormat to the upper echelon of the NBA, and there's no reason for them to not win the title this season.

Getting to the playoffs is not enough. Neither is getting to the Finals. The talent has been acquired. The pieces fit perfectly. Now there's one thing left, and it's something the franchise has never done before: win the NBA championship. Anything less would be a disappointment.

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