It was highly unlikely the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to trade Kevin Love at the deadline last month. They tested the market to evaluate what they might get back, but in reality management wanted to see what a healthy LeBron James/Kyrie Irving/Love trio could do in the playoffs.
There were a lot of rumors at the deadline about talks with Boston — Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge is looking for the elite star his roster needs, and they have a lot of affordable and solid role players in their rotation, plus draft picks galore to sweeten the deal.
But those talks didn’t get as hot as had been rumored, reports Zach Lowe at ESPN.
If they lose again, I’d bet big on Love being elsewhere — a split that might end up the best thing for everyone. Cleveland and Boston had trade talks for Love at the deadline, though they died with Boston offering a low-ball package the Cavs wouldn’t consider, according to several league sources. Even if Boston’s interest has faded, someone will call Cleveland about Love around the draft. Wiggins has more trade value than Love now, but that deal was the right move at the time.
There is a lot to go over in that paragraph.
Let’s put the last thing first — the Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins was the right trade at the time for the Cavaliers. Yes, as it was happening we knew this might not look like a good trade five years or so down the line — that is if Wiggins developed, there were questions about his jumper and competitiveness — but the Cavaliers were not playing for five years down the line. The second LeBron made his prodigal son announcement, Cleveland management slayed the fatted calf and went into win-now mode. Love could help them win now, Wiggins was years away, and LeBron wanted Love.
Love has helped them win. While we pick apart the flaws in the Cavaliers, this is still a mid-50s win team with an elite offense that is likely headed to the NBA Finals. Again. The problem is what likely awaits the Cavaliers in those finals — Golden State or maybe San Antonio — are more balanced and selfless rosters that will be able to expose those flaws and take care of business. One of those flaws is the LeBron/Love pick-and-roll, which Lowe notes every team switches and forces the Cavs into a more stagnant isolation play. Cleveland falls into these stagnant moments a lot, they still look like talented players playing next to each other, not with each other enough. Another of those flaws will be Love’s defense, especially with J.R. Smith and Irving out top. Read Lowe’s story for a fantastic breakdown of it all.
The Cavaliers are still a win-now team — LeBron is 31 years old and showing some slippage in his game (but he’s still likely the second best player in the NBA when he turns it up to 11). If trading Love to fill other holes defensively and grab a guy better suited as a pure stretch four comes together, then that may well happen this summer. Especially if LeBron wants it to happen. He’s not leaving Cleveland but when he stays he has the power to push for things in the organization.
Moving Love may be best for everyone involved, but it’s not going to be a panacea for anyone.
And the Cavaliers are not going to take pennies on the dollar back, either.