The Blazers need help. Adding forward Carmelo Anthony stabilized a situation that was trending badly but Anthony alone has not been enough. Portland is missing center Jusuf Nurkic—and can’t be sure when he will return from the broken leg he suffered in March—as well as Zach Collins (possibly for the season with shoulder surgery) and Rodney Hood, who will be out for the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
That’s the chief reason Portland has been at the head of the conversation when it comes to Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, who would welcome a trade out of Cleveland and would, according to a report in The Ringer, “prefer” a trade to Portland. Love went to Lake Oswego High School, just south of Portland, so a trade to the Blazers would represent a homecoming.
But the Blazers, while willing to be aggressive on the trade market so that they can assure a return to the playoffs for star guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, aren’t quite sure that Love is the guy they want, according to sources. The financial commitment required to bring in Love is the big stumbling block.
Love is in the first of a four-year, $120 million extension he signed in the summer of 2018. After this year, he is slated to make $31.3 million the next two seasons and $28.9 million in the final year of the deal, 2022-23.
Adding Love to McCollum, Lillard and Nurkic, means the Blazers would be looking at $104 million in guaranteed salary for four players next year. That jumps to $117 million for the same four players (the Blazers have a good-value $12 million option on Nurkic) in 2021-22.
Considering the NBA lowered its projected salary cap for next year to $116 million and $125 million the following year. Portland will have very little wiggle room under the cap and be tight against the luxury tax should they add Love.
Around the league, too, there is still some apprehension that the NBA’s cap could be lowered even more based on the league’s loss of business in China following the pro-Hong Kong tweet issued in the preseason by Rockets GM Daryl Morey. Trading for Love to solve the Blazers’ short-term roster issue, then, could leave them with much bigger long-term cap issues.
Blazers Have Options Other Than Love
He missed nearly all of last season after having surgery to relieve pain around his left big toe. He missed significant time in 2017-18 with a fractured right hand and 14 games in 2016-17 with surgery on his left knee. Love has been out for more than 40 percent of his team’s games in the last four seasons.
The Blazers will examine other options. Danilo Gallinari in Oklahoma City is signed only for this season, at $22 million, and won’t cloud Portland’s long-term as much as Love would. Portland has expressed interest in him.
The Blazers could pilfer the Knicks for forward help—Marcus Morris, Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis, take your pick—or look to less-inspiring veterans for help, like Charlotte’s Marvin Williams or Chicago’s Thaddeus Young. The Pelicans have not raised a white flag on the season just yet but should that happen, Derrick Favors would be a sensible target.
Love would like to be in Portland, like to finish up his remaining productive playing years near home. But it’s a risk for the Blazers—maybe too much of a risk with other options on the board.