Kevin Love should feel pretty happy with himself right about now. After joining the Cleveland Cavaliers with the ambition of reaching the pinnacle and winning an NBA championship, after just two seasons, Love and his teammates have done it. It was against all odds, but they did it.
Even when their team chemistry was doubted. Even when everybody questioned their title credentials due to the weaker Eastern Conference. Even when they were 3-1 down and needing to produce the greatest NBA finals comeback in history. Again, they did it.
However, they did it, primarily, on the back of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Two superstars who can win any game virtually single handed on any given night. Two players who, ultimately, delivered what was expected of them when it mattered most. Two players - which is one short of the Big Three the Cavs assembled two years ago.
Love's place was supposed to be leading the team alongside Irving and James. Sharing that spotlight. Leading the way. But instead, the 27-year-old was more of a follower than a leader. He did play an important role - everybody on the roster did in their own way.
But it was not the role intended for him. It was not the role he is paid $21 million to fulfil. By design or not, Love was a role player. A member of the supporting cast. A supplementary piece. And despite the end result, do the Cavaliers really get the best out of Love?
Do they get their money's worth out of their asset? Or could the Cavs actually get the same contribution from a different NBA player on a lesser salary? For what they need - absolutely they could. And when you're working with a salary cap, that's important.
Love put up 14.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, shot 41.4 percent from the three-point line and had an overall field goal percentage of 38.5 percent in the playoffs. Not bad at all. But not elite, max-contract level, either. He may be paid as an elite player, but he was not utilised as such.
Whilst James and Irving were able to put up around 20 shots per game in the playoffs. Love was afforded almost half of that with just 12. Love wasn't fielded as a player that was as crucial as James and Irving were. He was fielded as a guy to just shoot threes every now and then whilst grabbing rebounds and doing some dirty work.
For the Portland Trail Blazers, Al-Farouq Aminu put up 14.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 40 percent three-point shooting and a 43.8 percent field goal percentage in the playoffs this year. He earns $7.6 million per year.
Serge Ibaka posted 12 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. In addition to shooting 44.9 percent from three and 52.1 percent overall from the field. He earns $12.25 million per year. Not that Ibaka or Aminu are better individual players than Love.
But they are good examples of just two players who present better value and better fits for this Cavaliers team. And they leave you with more money to play with, too, as the rest of the roster comes into focus. In the end, a player's true value is only in what he is worth to you and your team.
Love is not worth his contract to the Cavaliers. To somebody else, he would be. After all, Love is capable of more than his current role allows. He is a better player than his current role. Frankly, he's above it.
Compared to now being a role player in Cleveland, with the Minnesota Timberwolves Love was one of the most dominant bigs in the game. In three of his six seasons at the Target Centre, he scored in excess of 20 points per game.
His rebounds never dipped into single digits, other than his rookie year. His average offensive rebounds, specifically, only dipped below three for one season. Nowadays, that's the norm for him. The standard. Then again, it's hard to grab offensive rebounds from the three-point line.
Pretty much every statistic is dramatically down for Love compared to his final season in Minnesota. That speaks to a guy playing within the system for his current team. It also speaks to a guy playing within himself, too.
Love used to get to the free-throw line double the number of times he does now. That was his bread and butter. Working in the paint to either score directly or get to the line. Throw a few three-pointers in there and anywhere from 10-15 rebounds, and that was a typical Kevin Love display.
Ideally, you want shooters around Love to open up the paint for him. Ironically, though, he's the shooter opening up the court for others in Cleveland. Love and his 36 percent three-point shooting.
The 2015-16 playoffs turned out to be the moment when James and Irving finally found their niche together. It finally clicked to the fullest for the pairing. They found exactly the right way for them to dovetail together moving forward. But for Love, it remains a square peg in a round hole.
A player playing down to his role instead of up to his capabilities. And once the Cavaliers take a glance at the Golden State Warriors, and what now equates to a big four after the acquisition of Kevin Durant, it should be apparent that they need to make a move now.
It's not about Love. It's not about the Cavaliers. It's about value and fit. Sometimes, things just don't quite fit. It happens. But with a title in the bag now and the pressure off - so to speak - for the original big three, now is the perfect time to make a change.
It would be best for the Cavaliers. And it would be best for Love, too.