The Cavs lost back-to-back games in the league’s play-in tournament last season, and Love’s struggles against the Atlanta Hawks (the team was outscored by eight points in his 10 minutes) led to questions about how he would defend in playoff games.
“Defense,” Pluto wrote about why the coaching staff wondered if Love could be effective in the playoffs. “The coaches believed Love was struggling when isolated in pick-and-roll situations where he ended up covering a quick guard.”
Cedi Osman and Dean Wade have been playing over Love this season, and he hasn’t appeared in a game since Jan. 24.
As it is, the Cavs have a crowded frontcourt with Wade, Osman, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. Given Love’s struggles on the defensive side of the floor, it makes sense why J.B. Bickerstaff didn’t give him any minutes right before the All-Star break.
Now, the Cavs and Love are finalizing a contract buyout to give him a chance to play elsewhere this season.
BREAKING: The Cavs are finalizing buyout with Kevin Love, per @ShamsCharania.
— Cavaliers Nation (@WeAreCavsNation) February 16, 2023
Cleveland is one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, ranking No. 1 in defensive rating as the league enters the All-Star break. The team clearly feels that playing Wade, Osman and others helps it win games more than Love, even if the five-time All-Star might be an upgrade on offense at times.
This season, the one-time champion is averaging 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game while shooting 38.9 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from beyond the arc. He’s taken a bit of a step back shooting from distance after posting a 39.2 3-point percentage last season.
Cleveland’s losses in the play-in tournament to the Brooklyn Nets and Hawks last season appear to be behind it, and the franchise is set up well to avoid the play-in this season.
With 21 games left in their regular season, the Cavs sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and are just five games back of the Boston Celtics in first.
Love will likely have suitors in the buyout market given his ability to shoot and long track record of success, but the team that signs him may have to live with him being a step slow on defense.