After getting swept in the 2018 NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ tumultuous season is finally over and done. Swarmed in drama, injuries, and horrendous defense, Cavs fans can finally breathe easy after a season that felt six seasons long. But, they cannot breath easy for too long as the drama cycle will start up soon again.
Obviously, the biggest story this NBA offseason is LeBron James’ pending free agency. While his family may keep him on America’s north coast for the remainder of his career, the roster is ill-equipped to contend.
George Hill and JR Smith are washed up. Trading for Jordan Clarkson was a punchline in the playoffs. Rodney Hood only showed up for a single game. If the Cavs want to keep James and continue to contend, they will need a roster overhaul. It just may be hard to move the four before-mentioned duds.
There are two easily movable assets for the Cavs this summer. The first is their coveted Brooklyn Nets pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, which is eighth overall. Besides the draft pick, the Cavs also have Kevin Love, the best power forward in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs may have to get creative before the NBA Draft by moving both Love and the eighth pick to appease James.
Love is no stranger to trade rumors during his time with Cleveland, but this time it may be a done deal. Love has balled out in his first season as the Cavs’ second option, with averages of 17.6 points, connecting on nearly 42% of his three-point attempts, and 9.3 rebounds. He also helped his stock on the trade market during the NBA Finals as averaged 19.0 points on 45.0% shooting and 11.3 rebounds.
With a solid regular season and a respectable NBA Finals performance, the trade value for Love is high. If coupled with the eighth overall pick, the value is even higher. Obviously, the Cavs need to swing for the fences this summer and they should not settle for a player with the same star power as Love.
The most logical trade (originally proposed by King James Gospel’s Quenton Albertie) that actually makes sense for both sides may be this:
- San Antonio Spurs obtain: Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, 8th pick in 2018 NBA Draft, 2021 first rounder
- Cleveland Cavaliers obtain: Kawhi Leonard, Pau Gasol, 18th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft
The Cavs were not the only team with far too much drama this season. Surprisingly, the San Antonio Spurs also had to deal with plenty of it. Throughout the season, superstar forward Kawhi Leonard has been battling a quad injury and along the way has burned nearly every bridge in the Spurs front office.
Thankfully for the Spurs, Leonard is still one of the best players in the Association and can demand a hefty trade to move on from him. Leonard and the Spurs may need to move on from one another and the Cavs can provide Leonard a new home.
In order to do so, the Cavs would have to give up a lot to obtain Leonard. Giving up their All-Star forward in Love, along with the greatest shooter of all time in Kyle Korver stings. After that, giving up young talent in Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, and the eighth pick neuters their future prospects. But, if this is what it takes to get into talks with the Spurs for Leonard, the Cavs will have to do whatever it takes.
Obtaining Leonard would be the first major power move the Cavs have made since King James first declared he was coming home. It would also keep James in his kingdom beyond this season.
With the team obtaining Leonard, along with James entering his sixteenth season next year, the Cavs finally find a proper defensive option to compliment James. Fans had to sell themselves on the tandem of James and Jae Crowder last year, but now they have the best perimeter defender in the league in Leonard. The duo can suffocate teams during the regular season, and turn it up to eleven during the playoffs.
On offense, the Cavs also takes a huge step compared to seasons before. Both Leonard and James can take turns carrying the offense, as they can create for themselves and others from all over the floor.
Adding in Gasol adds a further wrinkle to the team’s offense as he is one of the best playmaking bigs in the game who can stroke it from all over the floor. Gasol can also easily take Love’s place as the team’s stretch-five, as the Cavs can surround James with plenty of shooters and burn opposing defenses.
Finally, even though the Cavs lost the opportunity to select a franchise cornerstone at eighth overall, they still can with the Spurs first-rounder. Wings like Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith, or even Kentucky’s Kevin Knox would be available at eighteen. All three players would start the season either in Canton or playing in relief of the Cavs’ starters, but would be a major part of the team’s future.
While obtaining Leonard and Gasol is already a great start for Cavs general manager Koby Altman, he still should not settle. The rest of the Cavs’ salary cap is a mess at the moment with the bloated contracts of Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, Jordan Clarkson, and George Hill. In order to keep James, shedding the bad contracts is required. Love would be just the tip of the iceberg.
Right now, the Cavs are at a crossroads with whether they should burn it all down and rebuild or continue to contend until James finally slows down. If they choose the later, they likely need to trade away any asset possible to obtain players like Leonard. Only a player of his caliber would be good enough to keep James here, and even if it costs the team Love and the eighth pick they need to consider it.
Only time will tell what the Cavs have planned, but it will be another hectic offseason for the Wine and Golders.