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

With the Cleveland Cavaliers moves at the trade deadline, they breathed life into Lazarus. What was once a roster full of older and slower players that you couldn’t trust to play defense or stay healthy is not a roster full of young, lanky, athletic and durable playmakers who have revamped the Cleveland Cavaliers defense in just two games.

Mind you, a two-game sample is nothing to call the statistician about.

However, these two games have come against two championship contenders: the Boston Celtics and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Against the Celtics, who the Cavaliers were 1-1 against before their last matchup, the Cavs remodeled roster ran through the league’s top-ranked defense. Their 121-99 win was as dominant a performance as they’ve had all season and the 22-point deficit was their largest in a win since December 4th against the 10-21 Chicago Bulls.

The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-112 and it was also a convincing victory. While the Cavs’ bench outscored the Thunder’s second unit 51-20, LeBron James dropped 37 points while grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing 8 assists. He had 17 points in the third quarter alone and was out for much of the first quarter after a knee (to the squad) from Steven Adams sent him to the bench.

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The Cavs made 16 threes in both of these contests, shooting 48.5 percent from three-point range.

They’ve had an offensive rating of 124.6 in their last two contests compared to an offensive rating of 109.3 in the 53 games prior to the trade deadline. They’ve had a defensive rating of 109.9 in their last two contests compared to a defensive rating of 107.2 in the 53 games prior to the trade deadline.

With that said, there is certainly cause to believe that this Cavs team is different.

Stats aside, it’s the newfound length and athleticism that’s now on the roster that helps one Cav in particular: Kevin Love.

Love, a player whose biggest weakness is his lack of athleticism. While Love’s individual defense wasn’t the only problem for the Cavs, it would seem that Love’s defensive rating of 109 (the third-lowest on the team) is somewhat misleading.

Though markedly improved as a defender thanks to a focus on transforming his physique and capable of using the increased agility he has to get to players on time, is pick-and-roll defense has been terrible. He’s allowed opponents to score 1.10 points per possession, shoot an effective field goal percentage of 63.3 while ranking in the 29th percentile when defending pick-and-roll roll men.

Love ranks in the 7th percentile defending players in isolation, surrendering 1.23 points per possession as they shoot an effective field goal percentage of 58.3.

He ranks in the 17th percentile defending spot-up shooters, giving up 1.14 points per possession. Players have an effective field goal percentage of 57.3 when guarded by Love on these types of plays.

These are all play types that take advantage of his lack of athleticism.

There are eight players in total who will do the most to help Love: George Hill, Jordan ClarksonRodney Hood, Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr.

The Cleveland Cavaliers can now mask Kevin Love’s defense
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