Hey Cleveland! It took a while, but Kevin Love–the guy who used to average 26 points and 12 rebounds–is finally starting to look like the player you thought you were getting when you assembled your “Big Three” in 2014. Love had a decent, emphasis on the word decent, first quarter the other night against the Trail Blazers: 34 points on 8-10 shooting from down town. Check out his highlights below if you missed it:
Love’s stellar performance got me thinking: Could this Cavs team be even better than the one that just won the championship? For starters, Love is having his best season as a Cavalier so far. His scoring and rebounding averages are up 25 and 11% respectively and his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) has jumped from 19.0 to 21.8. If Love can continue to play this well, Cleveland will no longer have to rely on the two-headed monster of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. They’ll now finally have a “Big Three.”
With Love’s resurgence playing a big role, the Cavs’ offense is off to its best start since LeBron returned as well. At this point last year, Cleveland was only averaging close to 104 points per game. That mark is up to close to 111 through thirteen games this year. Remember, this Cleveland team, which has been head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference for the past two years, has started moderately and peaked in the spring over the past two seasons. I mean, why expend resources on relatively meaningless games in December when you know you’ll have a long playoff run ahead?
Yet even as Cleveland continues to reign supreme in the East, they’ve had an even better start than usual. That, along with a more prolific offense and a still above-average defense, leads me to believe that this Cavaliers team–at the very least– is just as good as their squad from last season. My gut feeling is that they actually are even better, but that’s certainly a speculative statement. However, with Golden State–the consensus pick to win the title entering the season–suffering from some early-season growing pains and dropping in many defensive metrics, Cleveland has replaced them as the current favorite. This isn’t to say that I don’t think the Warriors won’t necessarily beat them come June; but the defending champions deserve our respect now that they’re even stronger.