That might be counter-intuitive for anyone who watched the postseason, since the Cavs outscored opponents by 12 net points per 100 possessions with Love on the floor, the third-best margin on the team behind Channing Frye (plus-15.7) and LeBron James (plus-12.4), and significantly higher than Kyrie Irving (plus-9.4).
But Love has always been a forced fit in Cleveland. By his own admission, being relegated as the team’s third option “hasn’t been the easiest thing in the world.” His last three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves saw him being used on better than 28 percent of the team’s offensive possessions. Since joining Cleveland, it has never been higher than 23.4 percent. And instead of posting up opponents a majority of the time like he did with the Timberwolves, he is now asked to spot up at the corner three.
Love didn’t disappoint: He averaged 16 points per game with 36 percent shooting on three-point attempts. However, any team looking to trade for Love’s services can not expect to get the same results, because unless you have two players like James and Irving to garner the attention of the defense, Love simply won’t be able to get these kind of open looks consistently.
But this isn’t the only way Love is able to contribute. In Game 7 of the Finals, he grabbed 14 rebounds and played tenacious defense on Stephen Curry in the game’s final minute that was pivotal to capturing the series.
He is in the top 20 percent of the NBA in post-up scoring (0.94 points per possession) and elevates that slightly when you account for his ability to pass out of the post (0.99 points per possession).
And that highlights how Love is best used: in the post near the rim with enough shooting ability that the defense must respect him if he steps out on the perimeter.
Here are three teams that could be a great fit for Love’s skill set.
The Celtics primarily run their post plays through Jared Sullinger, but his low points per possession (0.83) and pending free agency could leave a huge hole down low with only Evan Turner as an option to fill it. Plus, Boston could still use Love as a spot-up shooter, a play type that left the Celtics wanting during the regular season: 0.94 points per possession, seventh lowest in the NBA, on 36.6 percent shooting.
Eric Bledsoe, the Suns’ top scorer, is an excellent ballhandler on the pick and roll (0.97 points per possession — in the top 8 percent of the NBA), and would mesh well with Love in this regard. Right now, Bledsoe has no one to pass to, forcing him to do it all himself, resulting in a high 17.8 percent turnover rate on these plays. Same for Brandon Knight, who has a turnover rate of 18 percent when handling the ball on pick-and-roll plays. A dependable shooter like Love could help lower that.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland scored the sixth-fewest points in the paint last season (39.1) and was particularly poor in the low post (0.79 points per possession on 42.8 percent shooting), so it needs a big man who can score.
The Blazers were also a very poor transition team (1.1 points per possession, fourth worst in the NBA), an area in which Love can help with his scoring and passing.
When Cleveland got out in transition, Love scored 1.1 points per possession, but increased that to 1.3 with his ball movement. Part of that bump is because he can dish it off to guys like James and Irving, but Love showed this ability in Minnesota, too. During the 2013-14 campaign, Love scored 1.3 points per possession in transition and increased that to 1.6 via assists, so clearly this is a portable skill of Love’s that isn’t being utilized to the fullest in Cleveland.