Kevin Love: Life As the “Third Wheel”


Jan 31, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) looks on against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Cavaliers defeated the Timberwolves 106-90. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Being the third wheel can be tough sometimes. They are invited to dinner by a couple out of pity. That one friend that pulls up a chair from another table at the restaurant while you’re out on a date with your significant other. They’re always out to prove they belong. To the Cleveland Cavaliers Kevin Love is that friend. He just wants to pull up that chair to the table and belong. 

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That couple at the  table is of course LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Both James and Irving are seen as players deserving of big, maximum money contracts. Love, on the other hand just doesn’t fit in at that table quite yet. Just ask his head coach David Blatt.

As the third wheel nothing is meant for you. You have to pick your spots wisely. Sometimes your job is just to stay the hell out of the way while one and two go to work. Don’t mess things up. You can be left looking like Carlton on that one episode of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” when Will becomes the star of the basketball team and hogs the ball.

You won’t always be featured on the “star watch” before a game. Your name always proceeds the word “and”. Your biggest flaws are pinpointed like never before. Its all about what you can’t do. To some you’re a glorified role player.

You might even be seen as interchangeable. For Love some games he might take a backseat to J.R. Smith scoring wise. Timofey Mozgov might take away a lot of his rebounds.

It definitely takes some swallowing of the pride. Especially for someone used to being the front wheel.

In Minnesota, Love was the front wheel of the Timberwolves franchise. Plays were drawn specifically for him, diagrammed to utilize his most efficient spots on the court. It was all about K Love in Minnesota.

Nick Hauselman of had a great breakdown of how different Love is being used in Cleveland as opposed to Minnesota. No longer are plays being graphed to get him in his sweet spots. Love is basically being asked to be a spot up three point shooter.

The result of this new role has been his lowest scoring output since his second year in the league and his lowest rebound average since his rookie season according to basketball

There have been a ton of missed wide open three pointers. A lot of standing in the corner and waiting.

It makes me cringe sometimes because I know Love has way more to offer than that.

For starters how about getting him the shots where he operates best, the elbow. Love handled the ball a lot at the high post in Minnesota. He doesn’t nearly get as many touches there with the Cavs (about five times less with Cleveland).

Getting him more shots closer to the basket would allow him to use his rebounding prowess as well. Love is an absolute beast on the boards. Taking a lot of long three pointers takes him out of the offensive rebounding equation.

Its also common sense. If you have someone struggling from deep get them closer to the basket to build their confidence.

David Blatt must take a page from the book of Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. Chris Bosh played the same role for the Heat. He too struggled early on to adjust to being wheel number three. As time went on Spoelstra began to draw up plays that got Bosh the ball in his favorite areas. Bosh grew into his offensive role nicely and won two titles.

Love, in the Bosh role doesn’t handle the ball as much because he’s on a team where Irving and James have the ball a large majority of the time. So Blatt has to find a way to get Love the ball in more effective and efficient areas.

Becoming a good third wheel takes time. It’s no over night process.

If Kevin Love wants to be a great third wheel he’s going to need some help from his coach but he’ll also need to dominate when wheel one and two are flat. Without James and Irving suiting up Love didn’t fair too well in his last chance. In last Friday’s 93-86 loss to the Indiana Pacers Love shot just
6-19 (1-7 from three).

After the game I felt like I had to be a Love apologist on Twitter. A fan was disgusted with Love’s sub par showing and felt the Cavs should let him go after the season in hopes of getting a better player.

I repeatedly explained to them that we cannot judge Love just yet. It is simply way too early.

What if the Cavs go on to take the title? What if Love takes Kyrie’s spot as the number two? Will David Blatt readjust his pick and roll heavy offense to better suit him?

With all of those questions Love is still averaging a double double (17 pts,10 rebs). Not many players are capable of doing that especially as the third option on a contender.

That’s the good thing about the Kevin Love story. It is still in the process of being written. A lot us (myself included) just have to sit back, and let time tell the rest of the story.

Next: Could LeBron James Leave Cleveland Again?