Examining Kevin Love's Resurgence in Cleveland

After struggling with the Cavs last year, Kevin Love has looked like a different player so far this season.

Two years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves swapped first overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins and others for Kevin Love.

On paper, the trio of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Love seemed unstoppable, giving the Cavaliers high hopes during their first season together.

However, Love put up some of the lowest stats of his career and due to injury and other reasons, and the Cavs didn’t live up to the hype, as they failed to capture the championship.

In October, LeBron claimed that Love would be the "main focus" and that he would "get back to that All-Star status."

Naturally, there was some doubt after watching how the team utilized Love last season, but through 22 games this year, Love has seen a resurgence to his former ways.

The Shift

In his first season with Cleveland last year, Love’s per-36 minute numbers were down considerably from his days in Minnesota. He averaged 13.5 shot attempts and 17.5 points per-36. Both were his lowest since his rookie year. Also, his rebounding was down, as Love corralled 10.4 rebounds per-36, the lowest of his career.

Now, this season, Love is attempting 15.1 shots, scoring 19.3 points, and grabbing 12.0 rebounds per-36 minutes, which are all much more similar to his numbers from Minnesota. His Usage Rate of 24.4% is much higher than the 21.7% he was at last season and much more in line with Love’s career rate of 25.3% with the Timberwolves.

In addition, Love is grabbing 19% of the total rebounds available this year, which is a higher percentage than when he tallied 12.5 rebounds per game in the 2013-14 season!

After recording his second lowest Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 18.8 last season, Love has jumped up to 21.3 this season. Also, over six seasons with Minnesota, Love averaged .189 Win Shares per 48 minutes. This year, he has registered .195 Win Shares per 48 minutes after posting a measly .165 last season.

For all the knocks Love gets about his defensive effort, he has actually posted the best Defensive Rating of his career this season, at 100. Coupled with an Offensive Rating of 112, Love’s Net Rating of +12 is currently the third highest of his career.

In Love’s monster 2013-14 season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he played the power forward position 61% of the time and center the other 39%, according to Last year, however, those were basically flipped: 38% at power forward and 62% at center, which may be one of the reasons why he struggled.

Over the start of this season, Love has played almost exactly 50% of his minutes at power forward and the other 50% at center. He seems to be best suited at the power forward spot, after playing 65% of his minutes there in Minnesota.

From a shooting perspective, Love is attempting the most three-point shot attempts of his career at 6.6 per-36 minutes. An incredible 43.8% of his attempts have come from behind the arc this season.

Love is shooting far fewer shots from the inefficient “mid-range” area of 10 feet from the basket to the three-point line.

Love is having an outstanding year in his second season with the Cavaliers. Looking at our nERD metric, Love comes in at 9.1, which is the 15th best in the league and means he would add about nine wins to a league average team over a full season.

About one quarter of the way through this year, it seems LeBron’s claim has been true. Love is playing more like the player he was in Minnesota and less like the “third wheel” that he looked like last season.

Now, the tricky part will be continuing to feed Love when Kyrie Irving comes back from injury.