Usually, when a team wins the NBA title, they try to keep the band together and bring largely the same team back to go for the repeat.
Kevin Love certainly helped the Cavaliers win their first NBA title with his Game 7 performance — he was a beast on the boards early (finishing with 14 boards, nine points, and was a +19) then played good perimeter defense on Stephen Curry on one of the key plays late in the game. Love isn’t a great matchup against Golden State, but he gives other teams trouble.
All that doesn’t mean the Cavaliers will bring back Love next season.
What it does mean is they don’t feel any pressure to make a move. The Cavaliers tested the market for Love at the trade deadline — when they weren’t very serious about moving him — and got nothing but lowball offers. Cleveland doesn’t want your draft picks and “meh” role players. If Boston and other interested parties make the same offers this summer, they will get the same “no.”
Sean Deveney of the Sporting News does a fantastic job breaking the Love situation down and noting there is a lot of demand for Love’s services around the league.
But the fact that Love’s name comes up (in trade rumors) is a testament to the number of teams that recognize he could be his old All-Star self if he did not have to sacrifice to win with the Cavs. Even when it looked like Love was on the outs in Cleveland, even while many were focused on his weaknesses, NBA executives still considered Love to be an elite-level player. The view of one league executive summed it up: “I think most of us feel like he might be a bad fit with LeBron, but he’d be a really, really good fit for our team. And I mean, there’s almost 29 teams that would look at him and think that.”
Add to that the scent of a championship Love now bears, and the Cavaliers will have to consider the fact that Love’s value is at a two-year high. He turns 28 in September, at the peak of his prime. The Cavaliers will not, as they might have been had they lost the Finals, feel pressure to make changes to smooth out some of their rough spots. They will be able to deal from a position of power.
But it’s not clear that they have interest in dealing at all. The Cavs’ long run to this championship certainly erases any immediate deal for Love—they’re not going to trade the guy at the draft, obviously—but that’s not much of an issue since the Cavs were never going to move Love for draft picks. The league executive speculated that if some deal gets seriously discussed, it probably won’t be until after Summer League and maybe not even until during or after the Olympics in August.
The Cavaliers just won an NBA title with Kevin Love as their starting power forward. He averaged 16 points and 9.9 rebounds a game this season, and that was with taking a vastly reduced role in the offense so LeBron and Kyrie Irving can isolate more. He’s not listening to the critics.
“I never got really trapped by the dogma and living with the results of other people’s thinking,” Love said after Game 7. “I just continue to fight through it, and knew that tonight I just had to have one great game. I was going to go out and be aggressive on both sides of the ball as far as rebounding the basketball. I was just told to rise above it, especially by my teammates.”
We certainly can talk about fit — Chris Bosh took this same reduced role in Miami, but Bosh brought fantastic pick-and-roll defense to the table, also. Love is not a good fit against the Warriors, but that fit was good enough for Cleveland to win a title with Love playing a significant role.
Maybe by late summer and into training camp next season some team assesses its situation and comes up with a legitimate offer that Cleveland needs to consider seriously. Maybe. But the Cavs aren’t going to move him just to move him and shake things up this summer. They don’t need to. They can bring everyone back and, if they stay healthy, no team in the East will keep them out of the Finals again.