Miscellaneous thoughts about the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This week in the notebook: Kevin Love’s shooting numbers are down, Dylan Windler’s unfortunate start to his career continues and more.
Kevin Love’s shooting isn’t what it should be
Kevin Love unquestionably helps the Cavs. Teams respect him. They react to him in a way they don’t any other player on the roster. Anytime Cleveland runs a pick-and-pop or simply spaces him off a primary action, they can bet it’s going to yield a good look.
Love, though, isn’t quite at his usual level since coming back from injury the second time. In the 11 games since he’s returned, Love is shooting 41.7% from the field and 32.5% on three-point attempts per nba.com. Dive in further and he’s shooting just 29% on catch-and-shoot three-pointers. Those attempts account for 54.3% of his shot attempts over that stretch.
Ultimately, does this signify anything? Love is 32 and missed most of this year with a lower body injury, so it would make sense that he’s still not all the way back yet. He talked about not being in rhythm yet a few weeks ago too.
Love’s track record as a shooter is too good for him to be this. Last year, for instance, he made 39.5% of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers, accounting for 40.7% of his shots. This dip is probably just a product of circumstance and this weird condensed season where no one has enough time to catch their breath.
Still: It’s worth keeping an eye on. Love has two more years left on his contract at $31.2 million and $28.9 million. It seems likelier than not that he sticks around through the end of it — which, for the record, is fine because he still helps — unless a team is convinced his spacing is what puts them over the top and believe he can stay healthy. And if you’re Cleveland, a version of Love who is at his best is a good outcome as the team’s young core grows over the next few years.
Isaac Okoro is outrageous
Isaac Okoro is going to be a high-level defender. And at this rate, it’s probably going to happen sooner rather than later. This steal from Wednesday night is outrageous off-ball defense leading to two points:
Isaac Okoro. Pick 6. pic.twitter.com/sci21brR9C
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) April 22, 2021
A few numbers to put this in context. Per BBall Index, he’s spent 17.2% of his possessions this year defending primary ball handlers, 12.3% defending secondary ball handlers and 19% defending primary shot creators. All are above league average with his time defending primary ball handlers and primary shot creators 62% and 78% above league average, per BBall Index.
Okoro, per Cleaning The Glass, has a steal percentage and a block percentage above average for his position. The Cavs have thrown a lot at him as a rookie and he’s thriving. If the offense comes, look out.
Another tough break for Dylan WIndler
The Cavs announced earlier this week that Windler was undergoing knee surgery and will be out indefinitely. It’s another tough break for Windler, the No. 26 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft who has never been able to find his footing in the league.
Windler missed what should have been his rookie year due to injury, only making a brief cameo in the G League before being shut down for the year. This year, he started out as a fringe rotation piece, but hasn’t played since March 26 in Los Angeles. It’s possible he’s now done for the year and will have to prove himself entirely in year three.
Going forward, Windler will have to prove that he’s an NBA caliber player. His shot profile is right — he mostly takes three-pointers and shots at the rim. But he’s only 32% on three-point attempts (25th percentile of wings, per Cleaning The Glass) and 55% at the rim (21st percentile of wings, per Cleaning The Glass). That’s just not going to cut it. When he was out there this year — he played 14.7 minutes per game on average — Windler often looked timid or in his own head, like he was just trying to get comfortable on the court again. That has to change.
Expect him to be on the roster to start next year at least. He’s making $2.2 million next year and has a team option for $4 million for 2022-23 that hasn’t been decided on yet. He’s 6’8” with a 6’10” wingspan who, by all accounts, should be a really good shooter. But Windler is starting to run out of time.
What’s left to play for?
The Cavs aren’t mathematically out of the play-in race yet, but the odds are slim. So what’s left to play for the rest of the season?
What’s to play for is reps. There’s not much time left for that, but more time on the floor for Okoro, Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and the like is huge. Building some cohesion in the starting five — quite possibly the Cavs’ starting five on opening night next year — is worth the investment now. But it’d also be good to find time for the likes of Lamar Stevens, Brodric Thomas and others before the end of the season too. Reps for them would be good, particularly with no G League outlet for them and limited practice time. Some minutes for Cedi Osman to try and prove himself could be good too.
It’s also worth noting that Cleveland doesn’t have incentive to really try and lose as much as possible now. The players certainly have no desire to pick up losses so the team nabs a higher draft pick. But the Cavs also aren’t going to out-tank the Thunder, the Pistons, the Rockets, the Wolves or the Magic. The best option is probably to play the season out and let the ping pong balls fall where they may.
And, for what it’s worth, the Cavs are 17th in net rating over the last two weeks, per Cleaning The Glass. Right now, they aren’t playing like a bottom feeder. There’s no reason to think they are going to suddenly become one barring injury or players being shut down for the year.