Kevin Love just had his best season in Cleveland, and it seems like he’s finally fit in with his new team after three seasons. He arrived in Cleveland in 2014 after being a dominant player who averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds, then 26-13, and in 2013-2014, Love averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds a game. He was basically considered a Top 15 player in the NBA.
But his role shifted in Cleveland – we need you to rebound and sink 3-pointers. So his numbers sank to 16-9 the first two years, but then this season Love averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds per game. And in the postseason, Love exploded, averaging 22.6 points and 12.4 rebounds in a destruction of the Celtics while shooting 53 percent on three-pointers.
But the problem is, he’s a liability against the Warriors in the Finals because having Love, Tristan Thompson and LeBron on the floor is simply too big of a lineup. Through two games, Thompson has been rendered unplayable: 8 points and 8 rebounds total. Maybe he turns it around in Cleveland; role players, home games, all that. (Paging JR Smith.)
But it’s going to be difficult to move Thompson for two reasons: 1) His agent is Rich Paul, who is LeBron’s guy; 2) Thompson is making $16.4 million next year, then $17.4 million, then $18.5 million.
So the talk will inevitably turn back to Love, 28. He’ll have two years left on his deal at $22.6 million and $24.1 million, and then can opt-out of his contract and be a free agent again.
In addition to the Cavs bench needing to get younger (Channing Frye is 34, Richard Jefferson and Kyle Korver are 36), they need to upgrade the wing to match the Warriors, who can trot out Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala, or even use Shaun Livingston or Klay Thompson at small forward.
So how do the Cavs get flexible? It just so happens this is the summer of capable wings, from Jimmy Butler and Paul George, who aren’t free agents, but might get traded. Does Gordon Hayward interest you?
How about this: The Boston Celtics have the #1 pick, a surfeit of wing players, and are in need of a star. Does this trade interest you in the least?
The Cavs give up Love in exchange for wing depth: Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Gerald Green plus Tyler Zeller (throw-in to help salaries match). You’d get considerably younger and more skilled, but who knows what this means for the 82-game slog of the regular season.
But if the Cavs get swept or lose in five games, you can be sure Love’s name comes up in trade banter before July.