Report: Kevin Love might follow LeBron James’ lead on free agency next summer

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The strangest part of the reported Kevin Love trade – Love to the Cavaliers for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick – was this line:

Cleveland is making the deal with Minnesota with a firm agreement Love will opt out of his contract in 2015 and re-sign with the Cavaliers on a five-year, $120 million-plus contract extension, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Love, based on the projected 2015-16 salary cap, could make only only $108,690,125. But that’s a relatively minor detail. Exact contract terms are difficult to pin down, and the size of a max contract won’t be determined until next July anyway. Either way, Love would get paid a lot of money – certainly the most allowable – if he re-signs next year.

But Love can’t make that agreement binding. The only way the Cavaliers get any assurance on his future is him opting in to the final year of his contract. An extension is not allowed until January and not feasible regardless.

So, despite whatever Love told anyone or whatever Cleveland believes, Love’s contract future is technically unknown. Perhaps practically unknown, too.

Ken Berger of CBS Sports:

If I had to guess, LeBron James will opt out of the final year of his two-year contract, which is set to pay him $21,573,398 in 2015-16. Based on the projected cap, he could re-sign for $22,053,069 that year. It would make sense to do that on another two-year deal with a player option, opt out once again in 2016 and finally sign a long-term contract when the cap could skyrocket.

Here’s the problem with Love following LeBron’s lead: He’s not LeBron.

For one, the difference in 2015-16 max salary between Love opting in ($16,744,219) and opting out ($18,902,630) is slated to be much more significant than with LeBron ($2,158,411 vs. $479,671). If LeBron opts in, will Love really do that, too?

For another, LeBron has much more security – based on his previous contracts, endorsement income and higher level of play – to take short deals and time his big payday. If he gets injured and misses all of next season, teams will still line up to give him a max contract. That isn’t quite the case for Love.

Love would be wise to get his big payday next summer, but like LeBron, he’ll have options. He should do what’s best for him and not worry about following LeBron’s lead.

Sure, he might get stuck on a team without LeBron, but I think that’s a chance worth taking. LeBron has given every indication he’s committed to Northeast Ohio for the long haul. Love should take him at his word. Not only would LeBron have a lot to lose by leaving again, that’s all Love can offer the Cavaliers – his word.

And if LeBron turns his back on Cleveland and Love, at least Love would have about 109 million reasons to get over it.