This article is one in a series that uses the FantasyLabs Tools to build daily fantasy scouting reports for the NBA’s brightest stars.
Kevin Love will probably never return to averaging 26 points and 12 rebounds per game as long as he continues to share a court with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
Still, the days of Love averaging 16 points and fewer than 10 rebounds per game appear to be over. Love’s averages of 19.8 points and 11 rebounds per game this season are his highest marks since he joined the Cavaliers. His newfound success is in part due to his 26.8 usage percentage, easily his highest mark with the Cavaliers and not far from his career-high mark of 28.9 percent. Love’s increased involvement in the offense has helped him average 40.35 DraftKings points per game (PPG) this season — his highest mark since joining the Cavaliers.
Love’s increased usage in the offense has inevitably led to more field goal attempts. His average of 14.7 shots per game is two shots more than he averaged in either of his first two seasons in Cleveland. Love has also been a presence on the glass this year, as his average of 11 rebounds per game is a three-year high. His average of 1.9 assists per game is his lowest mark since his rookie season, although he’s averaged over 2.5 assists per game only once in his career.
Love has notable but unexceptional home/away splits over the past three seasons (per our Trends tool):
With comparable ownership wherever he plays, Love tends to offer more value at home, although he’s proved capable of producing his usual stat line away from Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavaliers are frequently heavy Vegas favorites. Still, Love has managed to perform up to his salary-based expectations in these situations over the past three seasons:
He’s been especially potent with double-digit spreads this season:
Love’s +9.33 Plus/Minus is higher than that of any trend we’ve seen to this point. Intriguingly, his ownership has been just 10.8 percent in this situation. Love deserves strong consideration when the Cavaliers are favored by 10-plus points. It’s rare to find a player like Love available at an ownership discount in a situation that’s historically this productive for him.
Love faced a tough transition upon being traded from the Timberwolves to the Cavaliers. With James and Irving running the show, Love dropped down to 240 pounds to be in better shape to run with what he assumed would be a fast-paced offense. Instead, the Cavaliers ranked among the bottom-five teams in pace in each of the past two seasons and Love was ill-equipped to work in the paint. A shoulder injury in the 2014 playoffs prevented Love from adding back any weight or strength before last season, but he was finally able to get in a full offseason of work before his 2016-17 campaign.
Love’s transformation has helped him ball out in slow-paced games this season:
With a paceD of -2 or less, Love has averaged 40.28 DraftKings PPG this season. His 9.4 percent ownership in those contests appears to reflect the public’s assumption that most players perform worse when forced to play at a slower pace. The opposite is actually true for Love, as he’s struggled in fast-paced games this season:
This sample is small, but Love has struggled in his seven games with a paceD of greater than two. He’s also had heightened ownership in fast-paced games. Love could be a sneaky tournament option in slower-paced games.
Road Trips and Back-to-Backs
Most of our trends have been positive to this point, but it’s clear that Love is a fade candidate when the Cavaliers are on a road trip:
He’s surpassed his salary-implied total in just 44.2 percent of his 52 contests in which the Cavaliers have played two or more consecutive road games. Love has also struggled in the second game of back-to-back series with the Cavs:
Love recently returned from a knee injury and likely won’t be asked to play much on short rest, but consider fading him in B2Bs and especially road trips.
Salary Sweet Spot
Love’s salary has jumped around on DraftKings this season, with a low of $7,000 and a high of $8,800. His salary was regularly over $8,000 before his knee injury, but he’s been priced at $7,800 in his first two games back. Given that Love has averaged 40.35 DraftKings PPG this season, his implied salary is about $8,600. As of now, Love is underpriced on DraftKings, although he’s averaged just 22.8 minutes per game in his first two games back. If his minutes begin to increase more than his salary does, he could offer strong value on DraftKings.
His salary has been more volatile on FanDuel this season, with a low of $6,800 and a high of $8,800 . . . before this past Sunday’s slate. Love was inexplicably priced at $9,500 in his second game back from injury. Prior to being injured, Love’s salary was generally in the high $7,000s or low $8,000s. Given that he’s averaged 36.36 FanDuel PPG this season, his implied salary is about $8,800. Love is brutally overpriced at the moment, reflected in his current zero percent FanDuel Bargain Rating.
Per our On/Off tool, no relevant Cavaliers have produced excess value with Love on the court this season:
We see some familiar names in games for which Love has been sidelined:
The Cavaliers have relied on Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye to at power forward when Love has been sidelined. They’ve both produced value in those games, although Love’s usage has mostly been soaked up by the guards.
Love has proven capable of taking over the offense without James or Irving:
His usage and Plus/Minus have noticeably jumped in games that James or Irving have missed, more so James than Irving. Love has also shown positive splits without Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye.
Stacking the Cavaliers
Below is the average production for the Cavaliers in Love’s 10 best fantasy performances of the past three seasons, first on FanDuel and then on DraftKings.
It’s clear that James is Love’s best stacking partner. James has nearly outscored Love in his top-10 fantasy performances of the past three seasons. Irving and Tristan Thompson have also shown promise, although the James-Love stack makes the most sense, as James leads the team in assists. Per NBA.com, 71.7 percent of Love’s made field goals have come off of assists this season.
Like Chris Bosh before him, Love received most of the blame when a James-led team failed to win an NBA Championship. Whether that blame was deserved, Love has reinvented himself in his third season with the Cavaliers, becoming an all-round DFS asset, especially as a double-digit favorite and in slow-paced games.
Consider Love on DraftKings, especially when one of the Cavaliers power forwards or star players is sidelined.