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UCLA Men's Basketball: Hot Off Strong Playoff Run, Ex-Bruin Faces Unclear NBA Role

The former All-Star just re-signed with his most recent club this fall.

One of the most decorated former UCLA Bruins in NBA history, power forward/center Kevin Love, proved to be a critical late-season buyout market signing for the Miami Heat en route their run to the 2023 NBA Finals last season.

The 34-year-old big man helped bolster Miami's relatively thin frontcourt, and was employed as a spot starter in the playoffs that spring. Subsequently, he inked a two-year, $7.9 million contract with the Heat as a free agent this summer. He has a player option for the second year of the deal.

Now, it's unclear just how much Miami will use him heading into a critical 2023-24 season, as the team hopes to defend its Eastern Conference crown.

Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel speculates that the team's starting power forward gig could be somewhat up-for-grabs heading into the regular season. Caleb Martin got the start for most of the year and some of the playoffs, but Love's legitimate size at the position (the five-time NBA All-Star is 6'8" and 251 pounds with a 6'11" wingspan, while Martin is three inches shorter and 45 pounds lighter, albeit with a similar 6'10.25" wingspan) would give him an edge in certain matchups.

Winderman writes that, assuming All-NBA Heat wing Jimmy Butler is absent for 20 or more games (which is frequently the case), Martin (or returning swingman Josh Richardson) could spend significant time starting in Butler's stead as a small forward, his more natural position. Winderman notes that Love, who has played some backup center in his day, could be employed behind Bam Adebayo in that capacity as well. 

It will be fascinating to see how Love is used during his first full season with Miami. 

During the playoffs last year, he appeared in 20 contests (he started 18, but was also a healthy scratch in three Eastern Conference Finals games against the Boston Celtics), averaging 6.9 points on .378/.375/.875 shooting splits, 5.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 0.5 steals a night.