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Starting Kevin Love at center is best move to unleash Cavs’ offensive potential

Following the moves they made this offseason, the Cavaliers are planning to break up the team’s starting five further by moving Tristan Thompson to the bench and replacing him at center with Kevin Love, who has spent 62.0 percent of his career minutes playing power forward.

Doing so will make the Cavaliers a completely different team compared to the one we’ve seen dominate the Eastern Conference since 2015.

With Isaiah Thomas out until possibly January as he continues to recover from a hip injury, Love will likely be joined in the starting lineup by Derrick Rose, J.R. Smith, LeBron James and Jae Crowder. Although Rose struggled to space the floor as a member of the Knicks last season, Crowder and Love give Cleveland two of the best positional spot-up shooters in the NBA. James is coming off one of his best seasons shooting the ball as well, in which he made 1.7 3-pointers per game at a 36.3 percent clip. The combination gives them a Spacing Rating of 75.0 percent compared to 46.6 percent with Rose, Smith, James, Love and Thompson on the floor.

Surrounding James with three shooters makes him an even greater threat both as a scorer and playmaker, but the move might benefit Rose the most.

Rose averaged 10.0 drives per game with the Knicks last season and turned those opportunities into 8.2 points per game. While there were 11 players who drove more frequently than Rose, only Thomas, DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard created more points on a per-game basis. The fact that he was relatively efficient in those situations bodes well for his fit on the Cavaliers, whose dependence on 3-pointers will give Rose significantly more room to work with in the half court.

In addition to having a decent midrange pull-up, Rose’s ability to get into the paint and score in volume is a big reason why he ranked in the 74.2 percentile in pick-and-roll scoring last season. With James and Love now playing the role of power forward and center on offense while Smith and Crowder draw their defenders out of the paint by spotting-up around them, it’ll make Rose a much greater threat as the primary ball handler because it’ll give him opportunities to run pick-and-rolls with James and pick-and-pops with Love.

As long as Rose proves to be willing and capable of making the sorts of passes he struggled with last season, it could make up for the issues he’s expected to have as a spot-up shooter.


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