The win last night has kept that argument quiet for now but it has been a story line all season (see here, here, and here for a few examples). Love has been compared to Bosh with respect to their roles on their LeBron-centric teams. This doesn't mean that the comparisons are ill-founded, but I believe that most of the media has erred on the side of Bosh being better with LeBron during the Miami years than Love has been so far with the Cavs.
I'm here to put this comparison out there with cold-hard facts and truly clear up whether Bosh really was a better pairing with LeBron, or if that's total poppy-cock.
For the purposes of this analysis, let's isolate the 2014-2015 season for Love and the 2010-2011 season for Bosh. Both players were 26 years old. Both were in their first year with LeBron. Both were making major transitions from being on poor teams and being in a central role to playing third fiddle on their current team.
Who exactly was a better player alongside LeBron in their first year together?
Both Bosh and Love were brought in for similar purposes. They were supposed to be floor spacers, allowing other superstars (Irving/James and Wade/James) to get to the hole more easily, while providing consistent offense around the basket when necessary. So far this season, that thesis of ability has held true for Love, and it was mostly true for Bosh. The issue that Bosh had early on with the Heat was that he was a god-awful three-point shooter.
Even though Bosh shot better from the floor by about a 7 percent margin, you can almost fully attribute that to taking interior shots at a higher clip. In fact, Bosh only shot slightly more than 2 percent of his shots from three-point range, whereas almost 35 percent of Love's shots have been for 3 this year. Regardless of the overall shooting percentage, there's no question that Love has been a better floor spacer this year, fully opening the court (though about 5 games ago, that point probably could have been argued).
Love also provides a bit better rebounding and passing, but you can argue that Bosh was a much better defender, or at least slightly better based on his block numbers.
But from straightforward per-36 stats, you can pretty much call the Love-Bosh argument a wash.
What if we look into the advanced realm?
We also see that the block and steal numbers are marginal at best, which lends some favor to Love, given that defense has not been his calling card. He's even managed to be effective on the team with a lower usage percentage. Bosh proves himself as a better shooter from the floor, based off a higher TS% and he takes care of the ball slightly better, but all the numbers still lead us to the following conclusion...
Love is exactly where he needs to be right now. If he's able to fill the role that Bosh played in Miami during their four year run (which saw four straight trips to the Finals), the team will be fine.
You can even argue that the situation will be better over the long-term, given that Irving has shown he can be nearly as good (and arguably better) than Wade was over that four year stretch. Plus, the role players that the Cavs have right now are significant improvements vs. the Heat bench. In fact, here's the rotation comparison outside of the respective big-3's (my pick in parenthesis):
- Mario Chalmers vs. JR Smith (Smith)
- Joel Anthony vs. Timofey Mozgov (Mozgov)
- Carlos Arroyo vs. Matthew Dellavedova (Wash, sorry Delly)
- Eddit House vs. Iman Shumpert (Shumpert)
- James Jones vs. Shawn Marion (Marion)
- Juwan Howard vs. Tristan Thompson (Thompson)
- Zydrunas Ilgauskas vs. Brendan Haywood (Zydrunas, but really does it matter?)
So feel good about yourselves Cavs fans. It's a long way to go until the playoffs, but the end of the tunnel sure looks bright.