Next up in this series of previews for the Cleveland Cavaliers is power forward Kevin Love, the elder statesman of the team and longest-tenured Cavalier. Entering the second season of his four-year, $120 million contract with the Cavs, trade rumors continue to swirl around Love, whether they are realistic or not.
It’s hard to believe, but Love is now in his seventh season with the Cavs. It seems just like yesterday that the team sent Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the All-Star big man to form the Big Three that would eventually bring a championship to Cleveland.
With the Cavs, Love hasn’t come anywhere close to the insane numbers he put up in Minnesota, but he became an excellent tertiary option and willingly accepted his role without complaint. There’s no question that he was instrumental in not only winning the 2016 NBA Finals, but also in making four consecutive championship appearances, no matter how some feel about his production against the Golden State Warriors.
After LeBron James left to join the Los Angeles Lakers, Love remained in Cleveland, signing a large contract to allegedly lead a team that was determined to remain in the playoff picture (at least, according to owner Dan Gilbert at the time). Injuries limited Love to just 22 games in 2018-2019, and it turned out that James had masked plenty of issues with the roster (big surprise), as the Cavs finished 19-63. Love was healthier in 2019-2020 and averaged a career-high 7.0 3-point attempts per game, but the Cavs again won only 19 games, thanks to an abrupt end to their season.
Love has been involved in trade rumors from the moment he signed his contract, but it’s still difficult to see any team taking on a $30 million salary for a 32-year-old former All-Star who doesn’t provide much defensively. On the other hand, he’s still one of the most skilled big men in the league and potentially a future Hall of Famer. He provides excellent rebounding and floor spacing, which is still rare at his size, even in a league that has made that type of player the positional prototype.
There are certainly teams that could use Love, but the difficult part is finding a team that can afford him, both from a salary cap and capital perspective. The Cavs won’t be giving him away for nothing, and only three teams have cap space right now. The Cavs would be taking on money equal to Love’s contract, and then draft capital would have to be figured out.
Love may not do much for the Cavs in terms of their rebuild, and it would likely be in the best interest of the team to find a trading partner. However, Love could still be valuable on this young team. He has taken on more of a leadership role as the players around him have all gotten younger, and he’s still the team’s best player, at least right now.
There is always a chance Love could be moved, but as things stand, it seems more likely that he’ll play out his contract and then reevaluate things from there. Perhaps he’ll want to join a contender and win another championship. Perhaps he’s satisfied with the ring he has and just wants to play out the rest of his career with the team that wanted him. Whatever he decides to do, he has more than earned the freedom to make that choice. He’ll always be revered in Cleveland, but he will likely never truly get the appreciation he deserves.
As the trade deadline approaches, Love’s name will certainly appear in rumors, as it has every year he has been in Cleveland. And just like every year before, it’s unlikely anything will actually happen. Love will be the Cavs’ starting 4 and is half of one of the better frontcourts in the league, along with Andre Drummond.
Drummond will likely be traded this season, so the extra pounds that Love reportedly packed on in order to play more center this year could come in handy. Given the presence of Drummond, Collin Sexton, and the rest of Cleveland’s crowded backcourt, Love’s usage rate will likely be lower than the 23.4% it was last season. He’ll again be tasked with shooting from the outside and collecting rebounds. He’ll once again be underappreciated, and his mistakes will be amplified by the media and fans, because that’s how it has always been.
The fact remains that Kevin Love is still a very good player, a potential future Hall of Famer, and an NBA champion. He may be past his prime, but he’ll still give it his all for Cleveland.