Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love believes that the 2022-23 Cavs are “right there” in terms of talent with the team that won the 2016 NBA Finals.
In a conversation with teammate Donovan Mitchell published by Cleveland Magazine’s Dillon Stewart, Love gave an honest comparison of the two squads.
“I think talent-wise, it’s right there,” Love said when Mitchell asked about the parallels between the two teams. “When I look at our lineup, we have four All-Stars and a very deep lineup. But we were an older team. So our process, the way that we practiced was a little bit different, but our attention to detail and knowing how to operate was at a very high level. We had a level of professionalism that was all the way there. Whereas here in present day, we still have a lot to figure out but we have guys that get it.
“We have a team that almost feels like a college atmosphere. I’m sure it’s the same for you. Like the love we have for one another and showing up every day to work is incredible. In 2014-15, my first year here, through 2017-18, we kind of thrived under chaos, but we always found a way to get it done and win in different ways. I think this team is learning that. I think they’re taking a step in playing one more year together, us getting together in the summer, you getting traded here, fitting right in. You have the perfect personality to take part in this team, play shooting guard, play point guard, distribute, rebound, score the basketball. As we’ve seen, everybody really blends well.”
The Cavs team that won the NBA Finals in 2016 had some elite talent with LeBron James, Love and Kyrie Irving all on the roster, but Love clearly believes that the combination of Mitchell, Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley rivals that team.
It’s also worth noting how deep this year’s Cavs roster is, with Caris LeVert, Cedi Osman, Dean Wade and Love himself making key contributions early on this season.
There’s no doubt that the 2015-16 Cavs had more experience, as Love mentioned, but the current Cavs have a mentor like Love to help guide them to the postseason and through the challenges of a season.
The benefits of bringing Mitchell in this past offseason in a trade with the Utah Jazz aren’t only on the floor. Mitchell has been in his fair share of postseason moments, and he’s shown he can score the ball at a high clip when called upon in those games.
Cleveland is currently on a three-game winning streak to push its record to 11-6 in the 2022-23 season. While the Cavs have a long way to go before even thinking about winning an NBA title, the team has certainly gotten off to a nice start.
The amazing thing about the 2015-16 team is that it was extremely resilient. The Cavs clawed back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors to ultimately take the series in seven games.
Irving, James and Love all had signature moments down the stretch in Game 7 as well.
James had an incredible block of Andre Iguodala to keep Cleveland in the game, which set up Kyrie Irving’s go-ahead 3-point shot.
— ESPN (@espn) June 19, 2019
Love later locked up Stephen Curry on a possession late in the fourth quarter to preserve the win for Cleveland.
While this year’s Cavs may be similar talent wise in Love’s eyes, the team is going to have to find out if the current roster can come up with clutch plays like those throughout a playoff run.
Right now, Cleveland is in good shape with the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference.