Charles Barkley on Kevin Love: ‘One of the best players in the NBA’

By Vincent Frank

There’s a narrative being thrown around the NBA that the Cleveland Cavaliers stand a much better chance of ousting the Golden State Warriors without Kevin Love in the lineup.

After Love suffered a concussion in Cleveland’s 33-point loss to the Warriors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the former All-Star had to pass through the concussion protocol in order to return for Game 3 on Wednesday.

That didn’t happen. Instead, Cleveland was forced to start Richard Jefferson with Love out of action for what amounted to as nothing less than a must-win game for the team.

The Cavaliers responded by handing Golden State a 30-point loss, making the Finals a series once again.

This has led to some rather hot takes around the basketball world. Are the Cavaliers better off without Love? Should they bench him for Game 4 on Friday?

Taking the road less traveled here, the always engaging Charles Barkley went in a complete different direction.

“It’s interesting to me why there’s hate on Kevin Love,” Barkley said Wednesday, via the Sporting News. “It drives me crazy. Guy’s one of the best players in the NBA, he’s been playing fantastic in the playoffs, he actually played well in Game 1, and in Game 2, nobody played well for the Cavaliers. It makes me laugh, the hatred for Kevin Love, and it’s really misplaced.”

First off, we’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of NBA experts out there who believe Love is one of the best players in the NBA. Sure he had a stellar postseason up until his injury in Game 2 of the Finals on Sunday, averaging 17 points and nearly 10 rebounds per outing.

He’s also a liability on the defensive end of the court and doesn’t have much in terms of low-post ability on offense — two major ingredients for success as it relates to a big man in today’s NBA.

The real question here is not whether Love is a good player. He is. It’s also not to focus on whether they Cavaliers are better off without him. They aren’t.

Instead, it’s all about this particular matchup against this Warriors team. Love is averaging 8.8 points and shooting just 33 percent from the field in four games against Golden State this season. The Cavaliers are 0-4 in those games and have been outscored by a combined 32 with Love on the court.

Should Love be cleared to play in Game 4, he will definitely suit up. What his role might be is anyone’s guess. But to call him one of the best players in the NBA is absolutely absurd.