A year ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers were preparing to return to the floor after a nine-month layoff due to the initial 2020 COVID-19 outbreak. Much has changed since then, as far as Cavaliers’ basketball goes, at least.
At the time, Isaac Okoro was their most recent lottery pick, with the Cavs selecting fifth overall for the second year in a row. The player they chose the year prior, Darius Garland, had just completed his less-than-ideal rookie season, ranking as one of the league’s worst players by most advanced metrics.
Collin Sexton was Cleveland’s only true stud, averaging 20.8 points in his sophomore season and earning a spot on the Rising Stars squad. Other than Sexton, the Cavs did not have any clear building blocks at that point.
The roller coaster of Kevin Love’s recent time with the Cleveland Cavaliers is absolutely wild
Making up the rest of the 2020-21 core was the soon-to-be exiled Andre Drummond, Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, Dante Exum, and of course, one of the last remaining members of Cleveland’s beloved championship team, Kevin Love.
Love did not seem particularly thrilled to be the last man standing from that 2016 team. Matthew Delladova had returned via trade and Tristan Thompson had just left in free agency.
Everyone else from the golden era of Cavs basketball either did the same or was traded as the franchise looked to stockpile as many future assets as possible.
The 32-year-old veteran didn’t always do his best at hiding his lack of enthusiasm. Multiple outbursts occurred both on and off the court as Love wore his frustration on his sleeve.
A future buyout to terminate the remainder of Love’s contract and set him free seemed all but inevitable with the Cavs finishing as a bottom-three team for the third consecutive season. Love’s time in Cleveland appeared to be over.
Fast forward to December 2021 and the Cavaliers are within three games of securing the No. 1 seed in the East, while Kevin Love is playing his best and most enthusiastic basketball in years.