Despite all the shots that Kevin Love has taken towards his defensive shortcomings, he is still a very important piece of the Cavaliers’ offensive juggernaut. His unique skillset brought a different dimension to the team’s elite level offense, whether by virtue of his floor spacing threes, tenacious rebounding, or pinpoint outlet passing and all these led to a second seed in the East and a first round sweep.
Unfortunately, the Cavs will be moving forward in their playoff quest minus everything that Love brings to the table. David Griffin has already pegged the shift in the team’s status from being the hunter to becoming the hunted. Missing a major piece like Love seriously dampens the team’s chances of doing something that they’ve been poised to accomplish all season long.
On the brighter side of things, the Cavaliers are still equipped with ample personnel to give Cleveland a good shot at the title. If they do win it all, a lot of questions will arise as to the importance of Kevin Love to the team. Truth is, the Cavs could not have put themselves in this position without his sacrifices. He did have a rough start to his Wine and Gold career as he struggled fitting in to the demands of a LeBron James-led team. But as season got older, he started to finally find his niche and peaked in the series against the Celtics before his campaign was abruptly cut.
When Love went down, the Cavaliers already have for themselves an excuse in the event that they fall short this postseason (knock on wood) but they have gathered too much in terms of expectations from fans and themselves to simply flutter through adversity. Winning without Love will prove the team’s mettle but it doesn’t change the fact that he is still a big piece to the Cavaliers’ puzzle of success in the long run.
Back in January, Kevin Love said that he plans to opt in the final year of his contract. In doing so, he is set to earn $16,744,219 and afterwards become an unrestricted free agent. However, his maximum salary is projected to be a little over $19 million. That gives him over $2 million in excess if he decides to opt out and I am sure that there won’t be a shortage of teams ready to offer him the max contract despite his shoulder injury.
Regardless of the opt-in/opt-out decision, Love has repeatedly said he wants to remain a Cavalier for more than just this season.
“If I could end all the speculation now, I would. But people are going to continue to talk no matter what. I just want to continue getting better with this team long term. I’m a Cleveland Cavalier.”
Love could opt out this summer and he’ll have the option of re-signing with Cleveland for a five-year $109 million deal or change address for a four-year $81 million package. However, he could also opt in and wait until 2016 to become unrestricted allowing himself to either get a five-year $145 million contract from the Cavaliers or four years at $107 million from other teams.
Another factor that will play in heavily in his decision and the perception of teams on his market value is his recovery period. Love will sit out four to six months which means that there is the possibility of him missing out on training camp.
He has until June 30 to make a decision.