The Cleveland Cavaliers completed one of the great comebacks in the history of sports Sunday night and while LeBron James is busy having his visage chiseled into a mountain of NBA greats, the Cavs’ role players are trying to figure out where to go after the parade.
Cleveland was built for a championship — for this championship — and even though the NBA salary cap is about to skyrocket, a lot of that money will be going to James. None of it, surely, will be set aside for Kevin Love.
Last summer, Love re-signed with the Cavs for a whopping five years and $110 million after a stop-and-start first season in Cleveland that had many wondering if Love would look to play elsewhere just a year after the trade that brought him in as LeBron’s second fiddle. But the Cavs paid a hefty price for Love — giving up the draft rights to Andrew Wiggins first overall in the 2014 NBA Draft — so they really had to re-sign him, even with that bad first year.
When Cleveland fired head coach David Blatt earlier this season, people looked to newly-installed coach Tyronn Lue as the man who would finally get the big three of LeBron, Love and Kyrie Irving to gel. While he never did quite get that combination right for Love, Lue was able to spark Irving, which along with LeBron’s other-worldly performance in the Finals, was enough to bring Cleveland its first championship in more than half a century.
Wish as we might, it’s safe to assume LeBron isn’t leaving Cleveland now, and we know that Kyrie is staying put as well. But the Cavs will need to make some moves to set this franchise up to defend their title next year, and stay competitive in the resurgent Eastern Conference for the remainder of LeBron’s prime.
The fastest way for them to do that is to trade Love for young, cheap talent and draft picks, both of which the Sixers have in buckets.
Sure, from Love’s standpoint he would want to go to an immediate contender, and the Sixers are far from that right now, but the Cavs need to do what’s best for them, not provide a soft landing for their overpriced third wheel.
Love is set to make max money the next four seasons, and while the prevailing sentiment is trading him to Boston — a rumor that has been floating around the NBA for the last full calendar year — that move doesn’t make a ton of sense for the Cavs.
Boston is on the cusp of being a real contender in the East, and if the Celtics keep the third pick in the draft, they’ll successfully add another young piece to that puzzle. Would Boston be willing to deal the 16th and 23rd picks in this year’s draft, plus either Jae Crowder or Avery Bradley for Love? Would Cleveland even make that trade? What does LeBron need with two first-rounders from outside the lottery sitting on the bench for two years while they learn the game?
Would Boston trade Bradley and Crowder and a first round pick for Love? Is Love worth that much, a year after Bradley was second on the team with 15.2 points per game and Crowder was a 14 and 5 guy, locked up for four more years on a pretty team-friendly deal?
And as good as the Celtics have become, the Sixers still might have more attractive pieces to offer the Cavs.
The Lakers are another option, similar to the Sixers, with a ton of cap space in the post-Kobe era and young starts to build around, but why would Love want the pressure of replacing Kobe in his hometown if he couldn’t shine in success-starved Cleveland?
Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report suggested three potential landing spots for Love out West are Phoenix, Utah and Portland; all smaller market teams with rosters that could quickly turn into contenders if Love returns to his Minnesota form.
Tom Ziller of SB Nation included the Celtics, Blazers, Suns, Wizards, Rockets, Mavs, Magic, Nuggets or Hornets as potential landing spots the Cavs might want to deal Love, before getting to the Sixers and Lakers with the headline, “Can we get a little more crazy with these ideas, please?”
SIXERS: Jahlil Okafor and the Kings’ 2018 pick. Philadelphia doesn’t need it anyways. Love averages 35-15 next season and is reunited with Kyrie and LeBron as an All-Star starter.
Wait. Is that all it would take? Let’s do it now!
For weeks we’ve been hearing rumors that the Sixers are either going to deal Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor to bring in a veteran presence, with names like Atlanta guard (and wonky-kneed) Jeff Teague or Chicago guard (and dead-kneed) Derrick Rose as two possible options. But isn’t Love better than both of them?
Wouldn’t the Sixers jump at the chance to trade Okafor and a first rounder next year for Love?
Let’s sweeten this. Wouldn’t Colangelo, hell bent on making a splash to go from #ProcesstoProgress, give up one of the Sixers’ three first rounders this year, one of their two next year and Okafor, who is a talented player but will become superfluous once Joel Embiid finally suits up and plays? It all seems too easy.
Sure, there are a ton of reasons why the trade doesn’t make sense for the Sixers. They already have too many bigs. Love isn’t the 26-point, 12-rebound, 4-assist player he was in Minnesota anymore. Okafor is cheaper and has the potential to be better over the next four seasons than Love.
But isn’t this exactly the type of move Colangelo will try to make? And doesn’t trading for Love make more sense than giving up a young big and picks for a point guard with bad knees?
Of all the players available to the Cavs, Okafor might have the most talent, even if he may not be the greatest fit for a LeBron-led team. LeBron is best when he’s driving to the hoop, and Love provided better spacing on the floor for drive-and-kick opportunities than Okafor can give. The Cavs could benefit from another shooter, not necessarily another big. And yet…
Okafor is a piece to build around, and at some point the Cavs are going to have to be smart and do what the Spurs did with Tim Duncan; put a succession plan in place while he’s still productive. That’s what great teams do.
What bad teams do is trade young talent for aging, overpriced stars.
If the Sixers want a quick fix like Colangelo has been on record stating he plans to do, that’s what they’ll have to try. A starting five of Love, Embiid, Ben Simmons, Noel and Ish Smith wouldn’t make any sense, but neither does that lineup with Okafor instead of Love.
So let’s not say any of this is logical. It’s just what feels like the type of move Colangelo will try to make. And maybe should.