Since LeBron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers last Friday, a good deal of fan interest has been focused on somehow adding the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love to the Cleveland front line. However, the fly in the ointment has been the Timberwolves’ apparent insistence that top draft pick, Andrew Wiggins, be a part of any deal, something the Cavaliers early on said was a non-starter. According to ESPN, Cavs Head Coach David Blatt said, “There’s no reason or cause for worry on his part because Andrew’s not going anywhere, as far as I know,” when speaking to reporters last Saturday.
Of course, the team that gets Love will insist on him signing a long-term extension to his deal that has him set to make $15.7 million this year, and more in the years ahead. Love could get around the Minnesota roadblock by channeling Carmelo Anthony’s manufactured departure from Denver to New York. That would involve him flat-out telling the Timberwolves that unless he’s traded to the Cavs, he will absolutely not sign an extension with any other team, which dries up the market in a hurry.
So what exactly are the positives and negatives of a trade that would bring Kevin Love to Cleveland?
The Positives —
The positives in bringing Love here are obvious: 26-year-old veteran players (when the upcoming season starts) who average 19 points and 12 rebounds per game, and also have three-point range (hitting at a career rate of just over 36 percent) are hard to come by, which explains the squeeze Minnesota is putting on Dan Gilbert’s crew. Love also excels on the outlet pass, which allows Cavs fans to dream of a LeBron, Wiggins or Kyrie Irving being on the receiving end often in the years ahead.
Unlike rookie Wiggins, or Anthony Bennett, whose rookie year was a washout last year, Love requires no learning curve and can have an immediate impact on Cavalier fortunes that have seen them win an average of just 24 games during the LeBron hiatus. That factor catches the eye of long-time fans still waiting to cheer for their first NBA title in the 45-year history of the franchise.
The Negatives —
The negatives in a Love deal are that having played in Minnesota for six seasons, he has no postseason experience, and as Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out, has a somewhat checkered history when it comes to injury. Last year was the first time in three seasons he’s played in more than 55 games, due to hand and knee injuries. There are also questions about his defense, the most damning being his virtually non-existent blocked shot numbers of less than one per game.
In addition, having three max players like James, Love and Irving will be great while they’re on the court, but limits who they can bring in to supplement their efforts.
Finally, bringing Love in still doesn’t guarantee a title. It will certainly make navigating through the Eastern Conference easier, but the balance of power remains in the West with teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, of course.
If it takes a few years for the Cavaliers to scale that latter mountain, the aging veteran talent base of three-point dead-eyes Mike Miller, James Jones and potentially Ray Allen will likely not be there for depth when a final push is needed. If that happens, young talent like Bennett and Dion Waiters (not to mention perhaps two first rounders) will have been sacrificed for Love’s services.
Final Thoughts —
Given the fact that the window for winning a title is often short (San Antonio being an exception), the Cavaliers have to decide whether they want to try for immediate gratification that might be limited, or build a potentially lethal collection of talent that can sustain a championship run for the remainder of LeBron James’ career. Making the right choice could be the difference in how many championship banners eventually hang from the roof of Quicken Loans Arena.