Cavaliers’ five-time All-Star forward Kevin Love taught his younger teammates about sacrifice when he accepted a move to the bench before the start of the 2021-22 season.
Love did not receive the league’s highest award for his decision, with the NBA announcing on Tuesday that Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat had been named the 2022 Sixth Man of the Year.
Love finished second in the voting of 100 global sportswriters and broadcasters. Cam Johnson of the Phoenix Suns was third.
Love totaled 214 points (three first-place votes). Herro received 488 points (96 first-place votes) and Johnson 128 points (1). Five points were given for a first-place vote, three for a second, and one for a third.
A member of the Cavaliers has never won the award, which dates back to 1982-83.
Herro, 22 and in his third season, averaged 20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 32.6 minutes of 66 games (10 starts), shooting .447 from the field and .399 from 3-point range. He became the fifth player to average at least 20 points (20.8) off the bench since starts were tracked in 1970-71 and the Heat (53-29) earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Herro had eight 30-point games and 20 25-point games as a reserve.
Love, 33 and in his 14th season, averaged 22.5 minutes in 74 games, his most since the Cavs won the NBA title in 2016. Sidelined only due to COVID-19, Love averaged 13.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists, shooting .430 from the field and .392 from beyond the arc.
Love’s move allowed the Cavs (44-38) to implement their three big man lineup of 6-foot-11 All-Star center Jarrett Allen and two 7-footers — rookie center/forward Evan Mobley and forward Lauri Markkanen. That group was a major factor in the Cavs improving their defensive efficiency from 25th to fifth. The 22-game improvement in the win total was the second-largest in franchise history.
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“We had to find a place for Kevin Love to play,” Cavs President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman said on April 12. “How he came back, his attitude, what such great shape he was in, Kevin played every single game this year save for COVID. That’s remarkable for him. I think it speaks to him obviously accepting his role but also reduced minutes, a lot less usage and he thrived.
“I think Kevin coming back with that competitive nature, that acceptance of his role, made us push to see, ‘OK, how can we get them all on the floor?’”
Love tied for seventh in voting for the NBA’s Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award, won by Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks.