A year ago, the answer to this question for the Cavaliers would have been simple.
Kevin Love was coming off an epic fail of a season.
His numbers were bad.
He was far from a role model for a young Cavs team that was struggling through another playoff-less, LeBron-less season.
In short, the answer one year ago to the question of “Should the Cavs trade Kevin Love?” would have been a resounding YES.
One year later and Love has turned himself around.
He’s far from the one time All NBA player that LeBron demanded the Cavs trade for.
But he showed that this season, he could be a productive player.
In the offseason, he met with Coach J.B. Bickerstaff and the two worked out a playing agreement.
Love would be moved to the bench, and his minutes would be based on merit, not past accomplishment.
Players earn their minutes based on performance that season, not the past–a novel concept.
Perhaps another team with LeBron’s fingerprints could…do…something similar?
It worked gangbusters for Love, who experienced a minor-rejuvenation this season.
Kevin Love’s 2021-22 highlights #LetEmKnow https://t.co/ZJJZFtQpvc pic.twitter.com/Tmyx5DwE48
— Mack Perry (@DevaronPerry) April 27, 2022
His shooting inside and outside the arc increased.
Love went from an average player (15.1) to a productive player (19.6) in terms of efficiency.
None of his numbers from 2021-22 were career highs, to be sure, but Love showed he could a) contribute to a winning team and b) succeed in a bench-role.
So should the Cavs explore trading him?
To be sure, the team already has.
Despite rehabbing his image and productivity, Love still has a major sticking point–his salary.
Love is slated to make just under $29 million next season, per Spotrac.
That number is 43rd in the NBA.
43rd might seem reasonable, but let’s take a closer look.
42nd on that list is Jaren Jackson, Jr., whose play has been essential to the Grizzlies’ run this season.
Just under Love, at 44th, is Jaylen Brown.
Brown has been even more important than Jackson, combining with Jayson Tatum (36th on that list) to lead the Celtics on their current playoff run.
Love’s productivity isn’t coming anywhere close to that.
However, if Love is to be moved, the Cavs will need to find a way to make the salaries add up.
A one-for-one isn’t happening, unless the Cavs suddenly become interested in what, say, Tobias Harris could bring to Cleveland.
And it’s hard to see Boston moving on from Al Horford now that he’s become a vital component of the Celtics’ machine.
Could the Cavs pair Love with other assets to sweeten the pot?
Would some combination of Isaac Okoro, a sign-and-trade Collin Sexton, and/or Lauri Markkanen interest a team?
Cleveland Cavs have a nice, young and talented core and will get out from Kevin Love’s deal soon. Can also use Sexton as trade bait when he gets back healthy.
Darius Garland: 22
Evan Mobley: 20
Jarrett Allen: 23
Lauri Markkanen: 24
Caris LeVert: 27
Isaac Okoro: 21
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) February 6, 2022
For a trade like that, the Cavs would probably aim for a top-notch player in return.
Think a disgruntled Donovan Mitchell ($30.3 million) or Bradley Beal ($36.4 million).
For the purgatory-cast Wizards and (very likely) rebuilding Jazz, the Cavs would most certainly need to throw in picks.
There’s still one more internal problem on the docket for the Cavs.
Extensions with a capital S.
Sexton, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Okoro all are eligible for extensions in t-minus no time.
Perhaps the Cavs kill two birds with one stone by getting out of the Okoro/Sexton extensions by attaching them to a trade with Love.
Or Koby Altman and the front office could stand pat, heading into Love’s last season.
His expiring contract could make him a still-attractive trade target for rebuilding teams seeking picks.
Does that mean Love will be the next great washed up buyout candidate?
Only time will tell.
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