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  1. Bucs

Who throws a better deep ball: Jameis Winston or Kevin Love?

[Getty Images]
[Getty Images]
Published Jun. 5, 2017

Do you miss football? Look carefully, and you might catch a glimpse of it in the NBA Finals.

Halfway through the third quarter of Game 1 on Thursday night, a Steph Curry three-point try rolled off the rim. Kevin Love grabbed the defensive rebound, scanned the court and fired the ball at least 20 yards to LeBron James. It wasn't Jameis Winston to Mike Evans, but the aggressive, push-the-ball-down-the-field mentality is familiar.

Even though the play did little to slow the Warriors, who overwhelmed the Cavaliers 113-91, expect to see it again during these Finals as Cleveland looks to hit quick shots against Golden State's transition defense. The long outlet pass — a pass off a defensive rebound that leads to a fast break — is one of Love's signature plays. He executed more outlet passes of at least 50 feet this season than every team in the league, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis.

Love has been so effective at finding teammates downcourt that FiveThirtyEight dubbed him "the NBA's answer to an NFL quarterback." Passes that travel 20 or more yards are the standard by which we measure quarterbacks' deep-ball efficiency, and the Cavaliers forward completed 17 passes of that length this season, the analysis found. Five NFL teams — the Broncos, Ravens, Jaguars, 49ers and Texans — didn't complete that many in 2016.

How does Love's "deep ball" compare with Winston's?

The Buccaneers quarterback last season completed 22 deep passes, which ranked 16th in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. He threw 11 touchdowns but also six interceptions. Love committed five turnovers while attempting outlet passes.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

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