Kevin Love didn’t waste any time. He is now a part of the Miami Heat. The five-time All-Star and 15-year NBA veteran cleared waivers on Monday afternoon before signing a deal to join the Heat for the rest of the season not long after. The now-former Cleveland forward was in Miami for the signing, and he intends to begin working out at his new team’s facilities as soon as possible.
When the Heat return from the All-Star break on Thursday, Love will have his first formal practice with the club, and he may make his Heat debut as early as Friday against Milwaukee.
Love has won the NBA championship, the Olympics, and the FIBA World Cup. With 1,536 3-pointers made, he is 42nd on the NBA’s all-time record and 19th among active players.
Heat center Bam Adebayo, who hoped Love would move to Miami if the Cavs bought him out, said he intended to phone coach Erik Spoelstra on Monday to discuss how he and Love would be able to play together.
“Spo’s smart. He’ll figure it out, how we’re going to handle things,” Adebayo told The Associated Press. “It’s exciting. We’ve got fresh legs on the team. We’ve got a guy like Kevin Love, who has been through those wars, came back from 3-1 (with Cleveland against Golden State in the 2016 NBA Finals). You’ve got a battle-tested guy like that who has won. It’s big for us.”
Love has averaged 17.2 points and 10.5 rebounds in portions of 15 NBA seasons with Cleveland and Minnesota. He averaged 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 20 minutes per game this season for Cleveland, almost entirely as a reserve, and did not participate in the team’s last 12 games before the All-Star break. That’s what sparked the buyout discussions, and eventually led to Love joining the Heat.
When asked what acquiring Love means to the Heat, Adebayo compares him to two previous players: current Heat forward Udonis Haslem in terms of leadership, and former Heat center Meyers Leonard in terms of ability to span the floor, communicate on defense, and offer assistance protecting the rim.
“He’s smart, he stretches the floor, and you can learn from a guy like that, having a guy like that in your corner,” Adebayo said. “Him and UD, two different walks of life, but now they’re kind of going down the same road. Having guys like that, it’ll help me tremendously. He’s an all-around great person.”
It’s easy to be unimpressed with Love’s playmaking when you look at the basic counting stats. Yet, he demonstrates truly strong playmaking skills that may aid this Heat attack, particularly in the mid-to-high post.
Miami employed settings with Bam Adebayo or Jimmy Butler planted in the mid-to-high post, with lots of off-ball activity elsewhere — whether it back-screens, normal/stagger pin-downs, or cutters finding an open alley — usually as a prelude to its dribble hand-off actions.
Love, who is 6-foot-8, is an expert at identifying cutters in the post. He is tall enough to look over lesser defenders and spot cutters or open perimeter threats.
Love’s passes over either shoulder are incredibly well-timed and accurate; he’s very precise with his passing touch and the location of said throw — whether it’s to a stand-still spot-up threat or a cutter — demonstrating the ability to hurl a cross-court dime, lob a touch pass over multiple defenders, or bounce the rock to an incoming cutter.
Strus, Butler, and Martin, three of the Heat’s most brazen cutters, will particularly profit from Love’s playmaking when all four (as well as others) are spot-up threats on hand-offs or taking off from weak-side actions.
Love’s floor space is undoubtedly his most eye-catching characteristic right immediately. He provides the danger of a floor spacer that Miami hasn’t had since Kelly Olynyk was dealt for Victor Oladipo in March of 2021. Any semblance of new shooting helps at this point. Love may not be able to cure everything — indeed, he may not be able to fix anything — but he’s surely worth the flight.
Miami has the league’s third-worst 3-point efficiency (33.4 percent) and the NBA’s lowest catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage (33.3 percent).
Love is the ideal outlet; his ability to offer himself up in the open space for the pocket ball or ghost the play, releasing himself, creates an extra perimeter valve for a Heat offence that throws a lot of triples. It’s more mobility that may possibly open up more openings for Butler, Herro, Oladipo, and others to exploit. Nevertheless, Love is a skilled enough playmaker and connection (see below) to swing the ball around if tag defenders rotate to Love ahead of time.
His floor spacing is important in more ways than one, especially because it complements Adebayo’s skill set.