Kevin Love is a talented forward, but it may be in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ best interest to gauge his market value this summer.
The Cleveland Cavaliers sent a strong statement to the NBA word last summer upon giving All-Star forward Kevin Love a four-year, $120 million contract extension. Having plummeted down the Eastern Conference standings following LeBron James‘ first exit, team owner Dan Gilbert refused to let such a demise happen again, hoping instead to field a competitive roster that could compete for the 8-seed.
They quickly diverted from that path less than 10 games into the 2018-19 regular season. Head coach Tyronn Lue was fired after refusing to give the young players more run and the Cavs slowly spiraled into a 19-63 record, which tied for the second-worst in the NBA with the lowly Phoenix Suns.
Luckily for Cleveland, the cupboard isn’t as barren as it originally was back in 2010. Cedi Osman took a second-year leap in averaging 13.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Eighth overall draft pick Collin Sexton was named to the All-Rookie Second-Team. Even the team’s 2019 first round pick, while not what fans had hoped for, is still likely to produce a talented prospect at No. 5.
Building around that core seems like a solid direction for the Cavaliers to move forward with. The only problem is their beloved power forward, whose timeline now falls on a different path that could lead to some changes over the summer.
Love’s value had diminished greatly since Cleveland first acquired him back in the summer of 2014. Despite improved conditioning, he’s suffered a number of injuries that have kept him out for extended periods of time in each of the last three seasons.
It’s clear that three consecutive NBA Finals have taken their toll on his body. Maybe a much-needed extended offseason could help remedy those ailments. Or, it’s likely the man who turns 31 in September is witnessing the slow deterioration of his body.
This is not to say Love is incapable of playing at a high level still. He averaged 17.0 points and 10.9 rebounds in less than 30 minutes per game this past season. There are a number of teams that could use his career 37.0 percent 3-point percentage to draw opposing bigs away from the basket. A change of scenery — coupled with a reduced role — could be exactly what he needs at this stage of his career in order to be his most effective self.
The issue in any type of trade scenario is one that will continue to pop up. Love has yet to begin an extension set to pay him roughly $120 million over the next four seasons. That’s a lot of money for a player who may not be worth all of it and would be difficult for any potential trade partner to swallow.
If Cleveland is truly committed to a youth movement, it would likely require the front office to accept pennies on the dollar for Love. This wouldn’t spell total doom for the Cavs. They could then use the extra cap space to take on unwanted salaries with attached sweeteners. It just wouldn’t be the return one would expect from a five-time All-Star coming off a double-double season.
The Cavaliers reportedly aren’t seeking out a trade involving Love at the moment, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t listen to potential offers. Still, with two-thirds of the Big 3 elsewhere, it may be time for Cleveland to officially make the transition into a new era for the franchise.
As the Cavs try to climb back up the Eastern Conference hierarchy, that extension will only serve as a weight around the organization’s neck. Yet by the time they come to that realization, Love’s age and attrition will be too much to bear, rendering him untradeable to even the most desperate of teams.
Love has done so much for Cleveland during his time in The Land, having made great sacrifices that played a part in the 2015-16 championship win. In any relationship, it’s important to know when to call it quits. The Cavaliers may not receive an ideal package, but Love’s presence only delays the inevitable in a way that will ultimately come back to bite them.