Dial the clock back a couple of years and Kevin Love is the hottest commodity on the NBA market so much so every team wants him. His collection of top level rebounding and scoring far away from the basket makes him an absolute must have on any team in the modern NBA game that prioritizes a three point shooting big guy. The Cleveland Cavaliers with a mix of draft picks, players and ample salary cap space got in ahead of the rest and signed him up.
Aligning forces with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, Love’s numbers have unsurprisingly tailed off a bit as he is the third force in the reigning champions rich offensive line. Unlike the Minnesota Timberwolves days where everything went through him, playing alongside two future Hall of Fame inductees definitely comes with some sacrifice.
Despite the fact Love averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds per game in the just ended regular season, the former UCLA Forward is still one of the league’s best players. His 2017 All-Star selection buttresses that point. Unlike many other suitors, Boston Celtics had a big chance to nab Love from Minnesota but fluffed its biggest chance to do so.
Armed with a dozen first round picks and several second and third tier players to throw into a trade, Boston bulked at the opportunity and let the Cavs swoop in for his service. In the present, Love and the Cavs just completed a demolition exercise with Boston at the receiving end of the demolition process.
Late to the party through the previous rounds of the postseason, Love exploded on his former suitor with 22.6 points and 12.4 rebounds in the exhibition that lasted five games; one more than nemesis Golden State Warriors played against San Antonio Spurs. Draining shots from the arc on one end of the court while blocking Al Horford on the other end was Love.
Facilitating outlet passes for LeBron James’ rim rocking dunks was Love and gobbling up rebounds on both ends of the court was Love; yet this was a guy who at a point looked destined to be in the green jersey. However, Boston let Love walk and watched him sign for Cleveland and win a Championship later that year. As things stand, Russell Westbrook’s UCLA roommate is heading to his second straight NBA Finals and that is omitting the 2014-2015 Finals he missed due to a shoulder injury. Fortunately for Boston, it has a chance to correct that error by getting a “Second Love”. “Second Love” here refers to a top level talent that can get the side to win now and more in the future. “Second Love” here refers to Paul George and Jimmy Butler; not Blake Griffin nor LaMarcus Aldridge but just Butler and George.
After finishing the regular season on top of the Eastern Conference, Point Guard Isaiah Thomas’ rise to be an All-NBA Team Member and with promising youngsters on the roster, Boston has little reason to force the issue and trade for the players noted above. However, after seeing how Boston struggled to put away Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards before getting almost swept by Cleveland, it is clear Celtics need an upgrade in talent to hang with the big boys. From the eye test angle, Boston needs Butler or George to get its woeful rebounding numbers up. This department is a major Achilles heel of the smallest team in the NBA and nabbing either of George and Butler will go a long way to reduce the impact of missing out on second chance opportunities.
Both players averaged six rebounds per game in the regular season. Those are far from impressive numbers but Boston’s best rebounder alias Al Horford averaged 6.6 for the season. It gets worse when compared to other bigs. For instance, Boston Center Al Horford grabbed 18 rebounds in five games against Cleveland while Kevin Love registered 17 rebounds in just Game 4. Golden State Warriors is a team that struggles to get into the rebound conversation particularly offensive ones. However, the 2015 Champions secured a third consecutive Finals appearance despite getting out rebounded 3-17 by San Antonio Spurs in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.
The difference between Golden State and Boston lies in the teams abilities to put the ball through the hoop. Aside Isaiah Thomas, no player on the Celtics roster averaged close to 20 points in the season. On the other hand, George averaged 23.7 points while Butler averaged 23.9 for the season.The team’s prime target, Utah Jazz Small Forward Gordon Hayward, checks in with 21 points in the 2016-2017 season but lacks the postseason experience George and Butler have. Having the upcoming Draft’s first pick is essential in steering every trade potential’s head towards Boston but standing pat as the side has done for long under Danny Ainge is bound to catch up to them sometime in the future.
Having Thomas, Horford and very good players like Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley on the roster makes the ground right to build on and the time to get a Kevin Love-like kind of player for Boston is now.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter