Of all the soundbites that Tyronn Lue's first post-shootaround scrum as a head coach wrought, the most important development for the Cleveland Cavaliers may well have been Lue's conversation with - and plans for - Kevin Love.
Averaging roughly 16 points and 11 rebounds for a team on pace for 60 wins, Love remains a borderline All-Star. But two years ago, the then-25-year-old was in the midst of an epic season that saw him pour in more than 26 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists per night - becoming the first qualified player to do so since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
He was never an impact defender - and has once again proven to be a pick-and-roll liability - but the Love that the Minnesota Timberwolves made the focal point of their offense was a devastating offensive force the likes of which negated any shortcomings on the other end of the court.
The continued lackluster D and some of Love's decreased efficiency through 1.5 seasons in Cleveland falls on his own shoulders, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist - or a fighter pilot - to realize that the Cavs haven't optimally utilized their star big man.
The entire basketball world, including Love, knew the two-time, All-NBAer was going to have to sacrifice touches beside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving (although it's worth noting that Love's offensive sacrifices have actually been greater than Chris Bosh's were in going from Toronto to Miami), but Cleveland's misuse of Love has often been puzzling, frustrating, and at times comical.
It was painfully obvious to any opponent of Love's Timberwolves that he was most potent when attacking defenses from the elbows, whether by chasing his own offense or by showing off his phenomenal playmaking abilities for a near 7-footer.
David Blatt's Cavaliers, however, seemed content with turning one of the brightest offensive bigs of his generation into more of a mere catch-and-shoot weapon. The change was evident early on in their partnership, and it continued through the first half of this season.
|Season||% of touches that are elbow touches||% of FGA that are catch-and-shoot|
Blatt's failed personal connections within the Cavs' locker room dominated headlines upon his bizarrely timed firing, but his inability to optimize Love's powers within a James-Irving offense had to have played a part in his undoing.
Lue said he wants to be better than a coach who won 67 percent of his games, steered this team to The Finals, and ran a top-five product on both ends of the floor. Unlocking Love's potential (from the elbows) within an offense many expected to be historically dominant would be a good start.