Assuming that Kyrie Irving and LeBron James don't disappear from the court during the 2017 NBA Finals, the Cavs could have the series x-factor on their roster in the form of one Kevin Love.
Love is ubiquitous.
He's on Banana Republic ads, he has done commercials for chocolate milk, he's on the side of the Q - Kevin Love could very well find himself at the center of the NBA Finals this year as the series' most pivotal player. Now, please, take a moment and understand what I have said - I didn't say that Love would be the most important player in the series, I didn't say that he would be the best player in the series, but he could be the most pivotal. If Love plays in the NBA Finals like he did during the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavaliers could very well be walking out of the Finals with Mr. Larry O'Brien in tow yet again.
Love has been playing very well for the Cavaliers this year, and especially during the Eastern Conference Finals. Love is shooting 47.5% from distance this postseason, and his rebounding has been huge for the Cavaliers. If there is one facet of the game that the Cavaliers should have the unquestioned advantage, it would be on the glass. Love and Thompson should be able to control the boards, Love should be able to also provide two other important facets to the Cavaliers offense: floor spacing and outlet passing.
Love, as stated, has been shooting tremendously well during the playoffs so far, and if he continues to knock down shots at the current rate he has been, there won't be the option to leave him open as he will just bury trey after trey. This will allow the offense to breathe more as the defense is forced to stay on players on the perimeter, thus exaggerating the amount of distance needed to cover to help on LeBron/Irving penetrations. Due to this exaggeration, the defense will also have to cover more ground to close out to the shooter when the inevitable kick-out passes come from James and Irving.
The most widely covered facet of Love's game is undoubtedly his outlet passes. Not a single nationally-broadcasted game goes by where his outlet passing isn't mentioned - "Love with that Wes Unseld-esque outlet pass to LeBron for the long Cavaliers touchdown. You know [insert color analyst's name here], Love's middle name is Wes, after Wes Unseld who was a teammate of Kevin's father Stan in the 70's"... but I digress. This is a truly important aspect of the game though because if Love and James can connect on just one of these again, that's one less time they need to go through the grind of a half court set, and this plays right into their game plan of wanting to play fast in the first place.
If Love can continue to score, shoot, and rebound like he has been so far, he could really be the real x-factor in the series. His scoring is something they didn't get last year in the Finals, but he rebounded well and had the Stop on Curry at the end of Game 7 (yes, proper noun Stop), so he was definitely important.
Another large aspect of the Finals will be how the bench plays for the Cavaliers during the Finals. Channing Frye will likely not see much playing time, due to matchup issues on defense, but he has one of the highest effective field goal percentages in the league during the playoffs, and the Cavaliers have four of the top 10 I believe. Deron Williams will need to play well during the Finals, as will Iman Shumpert, and Kyle Korver is due for a big game or two because he has been relatively cold during the playoffs to this point, so if the Cavaliers can catch lightning in a bottle in the form of Korver raining threes during a game or two, that could bode well for the Wine and Gold of Cleveland.
We all know that LeBron is going to come ready to play. Kyrie Irving isn't going to shy away under the bright lights of the Finals, and we know that if it comes down to him in a big spot, he can rise to the occasion. The big swing could come in the form of Kevin Love being dominant on the boards, in the post, and shooting lights out from distance. If Love can just keep this momentum going, and if they can keep him on the floor, this could be one hell of a good series.
Game 1: Thursday, June 1 at 9 pm ET on ABC.
And also, an obligatory #DefendTheLand.