Major changes are coming to the Cleveland Cavaliers, whether LeBron James remains with the team or not. One of those changes could be moving on from Kevin Love. Formerly the Cavs’ third wheel, Love became the second option after the departure of Kyrie Irving, and played well.
Even though he put up solid numbers in the NBA Finals, many have viewed Love as a poor fit for the team every since he joined Cleveland in 2014. There are quite a few trade possibilities for Love, both in the event that James stays, and if he leaves.
McCollum comes home
Cleveland receives: SG C.J. McCollum
Portland receives: PF Kevin Love
The Cavaliers desperately need an upgrade at either of the guard positions. Someone who can create their own shot and consistently score around 20 point per game. McCollum fits that description perfectly. Playing alongside Damian Lillard, he averaged 21.4 points on 44 percent shooting last season. In 2016-2017, McCollum had the best year of his career, scoring 23 points while shooting 48 percent from the field and an impressive 42 percent from beyond the arc.
McCollum grew up a Cavs fan, and attended GlenOak High School in Canton, Ohio. After being traded to the Cavaliers at the deadline, Larry Nance Jr. became an instant fan-favorite because of his ties to Cleveland, and McCollum would receive the same treatment.
McCollum wouldn’t be the only player going home. Love attended Lake Oswego High School in Oregon, and would be a solid fit in Portland.
McCollum is 26-years-old and under contract through the 2020-2021 season, when he will make nearly $30 million. Love is 29, and has two seasons remaining on his deal. This trade would depend on the Trailblazers wishing to break up their backcourt duo of Lillard and McCollum, for both fit and salary reasons.
Having another dependable and dynamic scorer would be a Godsend for the Cavs, and in this scenario, they still have the eighth overall pick, which could be turned into another solid veteran to entice James to stay.
Cleveland receives: SF Chandler Parsons, 2018 fourth overall pick
Memphis receives: PF Kevin Love, SF Cedi Osman
According to The Athletic, the Memphis Grizzlies are interested in giving up the fourth overall pick in exchange for a team taking on Chandler Parsons’ abhorrent contract. In what was a puzzling move at the time, the Grizzlies gave Parsons a four-year contract worth over $94 million dollars — and it was fully guaranteed. That deal has only worsened through Parsons’ first two seasons in Memphis, as he has played a total of only 70 games with the team.
It’s understandable that the Grizzlies would be desperate to rid themselves of Parsons, but the lengths to which they are rumored to be willing to go are interesting to say the least.
Yes, Parsons’ contract is hurting the team’s ability to build their roster, but is it really worth giving up the fourth overall pick for? The smarter move would be to use the pick to get a top rookie, and just eat Parsons’ contract for the next two years while the rookie develops. The Grizzlies aren’t going to be able to compete with the likes of Golden State and Houston anyway.
But in this hypothetical, Memphis is dead-set on parting with Parsons, and do what they must to accomplish that goal. Love will be an interesting fit next to Marc Gasol, as both are very good offensive players who can space the floor exceptionally well.
Love’s rebounding prowess will be a welcome addition to the front-court. All of a sudden, the Grizzlies have a solid core, which consists of Mike Conley, Tyreke Evans, Love, and Gasol. That should be at worst a fifth or sixth seed in the Western Conference.
The Cavaliers have no use for Parsons. In turn, they have two options. The first is to just allow him to waste away on the bench while young players get some playing time. After the 2019-2020 season, Parsons would be off the books. Alternatively, Cleveland could use the stretch provision, which means they could cut Parsons and “stretch” his salary across multiple seasons, in order to lessen the salary blow. The Cavs wouldn’t be competing for at least three or four years in this situation, so they might as well just deal with Parsons’ contract now.
Having the fourth pick in a draft class this loaded would be a fantastic way to begin the second post-James era for Cleveland. They would be guaranteed the chance to draft at least one of Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III, or Jaren Jackson Jr. Then, the Cavs would also still own their eigth overall pick, which could give them another young stud to build around.
If the Cavaliers came out of this draft with Doncic and Michael Porter Jr., they would be well positioned for the future.
Underwhelming but realistic
Cleveland receives: SG Alec Burks, PF Jonas Jerebko, C Ekpe Udoh, 2018 21st overall pick, 2020 lottery-protected first-round pick
Utah receives: PF Kevin Love
In this trade, Cleveland doesn’t require anything of real value. None of the players are very good, and it’s unlikely that the Cavs would re-sign any of them after their contracts expire. Some could even be cut immediately. The 21st overall pick is decent, but it’s not going to get the Cavaliers a a rookie to truly build around. The selection in 2020 would be around the same area.
So why would the Cavs do this? NBA teams could see Love’s value as lower than the average fan does. Love will turn 30 in September, has just two seasons left on his contract, and hasn’t been the efficient and dependable scorer in pressure situations that the Cavaliers have needed him to be. He’s a complimentary player, not a centerpiece, and his trade compensation will reflect that.
Cleveland receives: SG Paul George
Oklahoma City receives: PF Kevin Love, PG Jordan Clarkson
Paul George was linked to the Cavaliers often last offseason before being dealt to the Thunder, and now, a year later, he finally joins LeBron James in Cleveland. This trade has two prior requirements. The first is that George re-signs with the Thunder on a max or near-max deal. This means he is now a long-term option for the Cavs.
The second is that Cleveland must reduce their payroll so that it falls underneath the luxury tax threshold. Otherwise, they cannot participate in a sign-and-trade under the rules of the CBA. They can do this by renouncing the cap holds of free agents Jeff Green and Jose Calderon, and then trading one of Cedi Osman or Ante Zizic and not re-signing restricted free agent Rodney Hood.
Swapping Love for George may seem like a lateral move, but it is much more than that. George is nearly two years younger than Love, and plays both shooting guard and small forward. His presence on the wing will be a huge boost against teams like Golden State, both offensively and defensively.
George would be a fantastic addition to the Cavs. There is really only one player available that would be better for Cleveland.
The ultimate solution
Cleveland receives: SF Kawhi Leonard, PF Pau Gasol
San Antonio receives: SG Rodney Hood, SF Cedi Osman, PF Kevin Love, C Ante Zizic, 2018 eighth overall pick
After a season filled with turmoil and drama, news broke on Friday that Kawhi Leonard no longer wanted to be a part of the San Antonio Spurs organization. Leonard is arguably the most desirable trade target to hit the market in NBA history. He will turn 27 at the end of this month, so he hasn’t even hit his physical prime yet. If healthy, he is a top five player, and one that can instantly turn a team into a title contender.
In his last healthy season, Leonard averaged 25.5 points per game on 49 percent shooting, along with 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.7 steals. He is a true all-around star, able to dominate a game offensively and lock down the opposing team’s best player on defense. The Cavaliers have yet to respond to the Warriors’ addition of Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016, and Leonard is hands-down the best way to do that.
It’s almost certain that the Spurs can get a better offer from somewhere else, but this is the best the Cavs can do. San Antonio makes Cleveland take Gasol and his contract, while the Spurs get Love and three solid young players with potential, in addition to a high draft pick.
Gregg Popovich would be a great coach for Love, but the Spurs already have Lamarcus Aldridge to play power forward, so one of the players would need to be dealt.
Their depth would be depleted, but a starting lineup of George Hill, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Tristan Thompson is better than what the Cavs ran out this season. They would need some veterans to sign for the minimum in order to chase a ring just to fill out the bench. But one thing is for certain: Leonard is not only a much better player than Love, but also a much better matchup against the Warriors.
This may finally be the offseason that Love is traded, and while it will be sad to see him go, it may be in the best interest of both Love and the Cavaliers to part ways. If LeBron James signs with another team, Love’s departure would be almost assured.