I heard Timofey Mozgiv being interviewed the other night. While apologizing for his English, he was able to convey, quite well, the reason he enjoys playing with LeBron James. LeBron plays at such a high level and wants to win so badly that you, as a teammate, want to do the best you can so that you do not "let him down" by how you play.
When I was 25-35 years old, I played on a team with a guy who was the LeBron of our league. We always won. I spotted up and hit threes and tried as hard as my body would let me on defense. We won 7 titles in 8 years. All the guy had to say after a few bad plays was, "Come on fellas, we don't need that." And while you could get mad, because you were trying, you really felt more embarrassed to be called out as the guy who was fucking up and letting the team down. When you have the best guy, you just need to do the small things you are asked to do, try very hard, and not be a burden on the team.
Mozgov understands the limited purpose for which he is needed -- be big, play defense, block shots, score 6 points a game and rebound. If he happens to score 10-14-18 points, no one is happier for him than LeBron. It makes LeBron's night easier.
The same can be said of Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith -- Shumpert is a HIGH END defender. Even on shitty teams, his defensive rating was good. He can guard both guard spots. J.R. Smith is, well, a gunner. He has had something like 13 games in which he has hit at least 8 threes. That is just silly. Both guys understand their role. And you know what? Shumpert has actually had some good scoring games and J.R. has given far more defensively and rebounding-wise than anyone might expect. Do what you can do, and if through effort or luck some nights you are better than expected, great.
Kyrie Irving fought and fought and fought to play the game his own way. Then LeBron took a week off and Kyrie's club was 19-20 and looking bad. Kyrie finally realized that his way was the losing way. Let LeBron run the offense. He will get tired or rest sometimes, then you can go nuts and take over. But it has to be related to what LeBron wants to happen. You are a supporting player. Play hard, try on defense, and we will get your offense when we need it. They seem to have come around somewhat as a duo.
Kevin Love? Um, no. Kevin Love sees himself as a star player on the same level as LeBron. He does not feel, in any way, a concern about letting down LeBron James. Kevin Love plays for himself. If his team happens to win, all the better, but he isn't going to be happy about scoring one fewer point or grabbing one fewer rebound to gain another win. He just isn't. And when you play with a great player, what is the one thing they demand out of you? Constant defensive effort. Kevin Love does not provide constant defensive effort. If his guy gets 25 or 35 or 45, well, he guesses that just happens. I saw Kenneth Faried beat Love down the floor 5+times for dunks one game at Target Center. One would think that after time 2-3-4 that the foremost thing in Love's mind would be "I will foul out before he gets another dunk." One would think wrong.
The reason that Tristan Thompson is so much better for the Cavs than Kevin Love is that Tristan Thompson is an effort player. He dominated Paul Millsap on defense and on the boards. He provided a physical presence. He provided help defense. The worst thing that happened to the Atlanta Hawks this playoffs was the loss of Kevin Love. Paul Millsap would have eaten up Kevin Love. If you search, you can find a lot of early season footage where guys strolled to the rim against Kevin Love's "help defense" and LeBron stared at him like "Jesus, come on!" Love didn't care. He wasn't going to get hurt or in foul trouble.
Traditionally, if you are going to be a top flight defensive club, you need to play two shot blockers. Thompson qualifies; Love does not.
So where does this leave us? Well, Love can opt out or he could opt in for a year. I believe (although I could be wrong) that under either scenario the Cavs could do an extension+trade or a sign-and-trade. This would allow Love to receive more money. Now, who has anything to give? Do the Celtics want to give Sullinger and Smart? Do the Lakers want to give up Julius Randle or their #2 pick? Who knows? But certainly acquiring a player like Okafor or Randle or Sullinger or Smart of Olynyk makes a lot more sense for Cleveland than keeping Kevin Love at some ridiculous salary. He just isn't a good fit to play with LeBron. If we was willing to play 20-22 minutes off the bench for the Cavs and have Thompson start and finish games, great. But that is Ryan Anderson, that is not Kevin Love, especially a Kevin Love who is making $15-$17M a year.