Kevin Love has spent the majority of his NBA career playing power forward. Tristan Thompson has started most of his Cleveland Cavaliers career at center. But Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue plans to change both of these things in the upcoming 2017-18 NBA season.
Cleveland now has more quality players than they know what to do with. This includes picking up Jae Crowder in an off-season trade for Kyrie Irving.
Crowder is a versatile 6’6″, 235-pound forward in the same mold as LeBron James. This means that Crowder can play both forward spots.
Given that LeBron James often mans the small forward position for 36 to 40 minutes per game, putting Crowder at power forward would be the best way to keep him on the floor. But this also means that Love would have to slide over to center because he also plays around 30 minutes a night.
“We did a lot of that last training camp, but as far as how the sets are put together right now throughout training camp I am seeing a pretty significant amount of time there,” Love told Cleveland.com. “Depends on, now with so many guys on the team and so many lineups that we can throw out there it will probably change.”
Thompson will Come Off the Bench
With Love at center, Tristan Thompson will be forced to come off the bench for the first time in his career.
He averaged 19.0 PPG and 11.1 RPG last season, while shooting 37.3% from the three-point line. Thompson, meanwhile, averaged 8.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 1.1 blocks.
The upside is that Love is a much better outside shooter than Thompson and can space the floor better. The downside is that Thompson is a better defender and one of the few shot-blocking presences on the Cavaliers. Going further, center is a more physically demanding position than power forward, meaning that Love could wear down faster during the season.
Of course, the other scenario would be playing Love and Thompson together like last year. Crowder would then have to come off the bench. But he’s become accustomed to starting in his previous four seasons with the Boston Celtics.
“Spacing opportunities, spacing the floor,” said Lue of the change. “Being able to play through the elbows with multiple guys.”
Coach Lue Hoping for a Different Look
Lue wasn’t really in the mood to talk much about his plan to start Love at center. But he did mention the team’s newfound depth with the acquisitions of Crowder, Dwayne Wade, Jeff Green, Derrick Rose, and Isaiah Thomas.
“Tristan is a very dynamic roller, guy that plays a lot as a dunker,” Love explained. “Myself, I have to play inside-out, mix that up and really take what the defense gives you. But it gives us a different look.
“I mentioned different dynamics out there on the floor with different lineups and we’re so deep now that D-Wade (Dwyane Wade) and a lot of guys similar in size at that 4-5 spot, we’re going to see guys playing interchangeable. It’s not just going to be on the defensive end in that regard.”
Team Holding First Scrimmages
Cleveland had their first scrimmage this past week, which gave Lue a chance to experiment with his new lineup. Love was with the first unit at center, while Thompson played as the second unit’s big man.
The Cavs will hold their first public scrimmage on Monday at 6pm. However, Lue said that fans shouldn’t put too much stock into the lineups since Lebron James (ankle) won’t be playing.
“We’ve been definitely interchangeable in that respect, but also I think Ty likes to match Tristan and I against each other so I think I will see a lot time at the 5 in practices going against T-top,” said Love.
Lue Expects Big Season for Love
Lue told ESPN’s Zach Lowe earlier in December that he believes Kevin Love is set for one of his biggest season’s yet.
“Kevin is going to have the best year that he’s had here,” said Lue. “I thought he was great anyway. You keep bringing up [Chris] Bosh. What did Bosh average in Miami?
“Kevin averaged almost 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] with two other All-Stars. If you are on a championship-caliber team, you have to sacrifice. But this year is going to be a big opportunity for him. We’re going to play through him more. He’s going to get those elbow touches again.”
Cavs Odds for 2017-18 Season
The Cleveland Cavaliers open at -140 in our Eastern Conference futures at GTBets. The next-closest competition is the Boston Celtics, who have +220 odds of winning the East.
The Cavs have certainly changed their roster from last season thanks to the Irving trade. They also picked up important free agents like Rose and Green over the summer. This is why some believe that Cleveland could be even better this year than last, when they made the NBA Finals.
This includes Thomas, who will likely be out until Christmas with a hip injury. Thomas offers the same high offensive pedigree as Irving. But the key will be integrating him with James, Love, and the rest of the Cavs before the playoffs began.
It’ll also be interesting to see how Lue’s experiment with Love at center works out. I assume that Thompson will be starting some games at center just to reduce Love’s load. But we’ll see how things progress through the season.