INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Kevin Love could be named the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ permanent starter at center this season, with Tristan Thompson coming off the bench, coach Tyronn Lue said after practice Saturday.
Love said he has played “quite a bit” of time at the 5 with the Cavs’ first unit through the first week of training camp.
Cleveland has dabbled with Love in that position in the past when it goes with a small-ball lineup — and it had particular success with it in a first-round sweep of center Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons in the 2016 playoffs.
“Tristan is a very dynamic roller, guy that plays a lot as a dunker,” Love said. “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 [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.”
Speaking of defense, Lue said he was “fine” with any concerns that arise about swapping a stronger defender in Thompson to more of an offensive weapon in Love with the starting five.
Cleveland will have to try to replace the 177 3-pointers Kyrie Irving made last season. Going more through Love, who made 145 3-pointers last season, will help while Isaiah Thomas (245 made 3-pointers) — who joined the Cavs when they traded Irving to Boston — is out injured.
The Cavaliers have also been playing Jae Crowder at the 4 with the starters during training camp, adding another defensive-oriented player to the mix.
With Cleveland adding guards Derrick Rose and Wade — both of whom thrive more in slashing to the paint than they do from the outside (Rose and Wade made a combined 58 3-pointers last season) — Love’s presence as a stretch-5, taking his defender out of the lane, will theoretically complement that.
“Spacing opportunities, spacing the floor,” Lue said when asked what he likes about Love playing center. “Being able to play through the elbows with multiple guys.”
With Irving’s departure cutting the Cavs’ original Big Three down to a dynamic duo between Love and LeBron James, Cleveland is focused on tapping Love’s potential even more.
“Kevin is going to have the best year that he’s had here,” Lue told ESPN’s Zach Lowe earlier this month. “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.”