With LeBron James gone and Kyrie Irving not wanting to be heir to the throne (that Irving held before LeBron’s return), the Cavaliers have found their new franchise player.
Kevin Love – who appeared in trade rumors earlier this offseason – is locking in with Cleveland long-term.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
Love’s max extension would have been worth $129,663,878 over four years. So, he didn’t get all that. But he still got a lot.
Probably too much.
Love is a very good player and looked elite before trying to contort his game to fit with LeBron and Irving. In Minnesota, Love proved capable of carrying a good team, peaking with a sixth-place finish in 2012 MVP voting. That the Timberwolves never made the playoffs with him wasn’t his fault. They played excellently with him on the floor and fell totally apart whenever he rested.
But that was several years ago. Love will turn 31 before playing on this extension, and as good as he remains, I’d be wary of paying him so much during that phase of his career. Playing without LeBron and Irving could free Love in some ways, but after aging and injuries, he might no longer possess the athleticism necessary to turn back into Minnesota Love.
This is also troubling for the Cavs, because it clarifies their position as a win-now team. They owe the Hawks a top-10-protected first-round pick. Best case, Love helps Cleveland reach the playoffs and send Atlanta a low pick. But this lacking, though veteran roster, is in danger of barely missing the postseason and conveying a pick in the dreaded 11-14 range.
Love would have had a chance to earn more in unrestricted free agency next summer – a projected $221 million over five years if he re-signed or $164 million over four years if he signed elsewhere. He also held a $25,595,700 player option for 2019-20 as insurance. He obviously was far from guaranteed of landing a max contract in free agency, but he is bypassing a large upside.
By all accounts, Love seems happy in Cleveland. Some of that was certainly tied to championship contention, now a remnant of the past. But it clearly went deeper.
And all that money doesn’t hurt, either.