When it comes to power forward Kevin Love, the Cavaliers and the rest of the league spent last season operating on different planes. For Cleveland, Love remains a superstar big man, the same five-time All-Star who worked hard to fit in alongside LeBron James during the Cavaliers’ run of four straight NBA Finals appearances. Any team seeking to trade for him should be willing to give up a package of riches, as the Cavs see it.
For the other 29 NBA teams, he is a frequently injured 31-year-old on the back side of his career, putting up so-so numbers (17.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists) for a putrid team and sitting on one of the NBA’s most bloated contracts with three years and $90 million left after the 2019-20 season, if indeed there is a 2019-20 season. Any team willing to trade for him would be doing the Cavs a serious financial favor.
Even with the league in suspension because of the coronavirus outbreak and with the league looking at a potential financial crunch that could shrink the salary cap in the coming years, the Cavs’ view apparently has not changed.
Cleveland.com writer Chris Fedor wrote about Love on Friday and reported that Cleveland is not expected to give away Love in order to get out of his contract and isn’t expected to chase after free agents, except to try to keep newly acquired center Andre Drummond. “The Cavs continue to value (Love),” Fedor wrote. “They don’t regret the contract extension. Plus, they have no urgency to dump salary.”
Fedor added that, “In any Love deal, they will want some combination of draft picks and young players—as unrealistic as some around the NBA view that demand.”
Amend that: All around the NBA (outside of Cleveland) view that demand as unrealistic.
Celtics, Blazers, Suns Among Those Interested in Love
Whenever the offseason hits, that could be bad news for teams that have expressed interest in Love recently.
The Celtics have been connected to Love for five years now but would have a hard time trading for him under their current salary structure—only if Gordon Hayward opts in and is put on the trading block could a deal for Love work. Dallas and Charlotte also reportedly expressed interest in Love, but only on a buy-low basis. The Suns inquired as well, but nothing came close.
The team that came closest to making a deal for Love this season was Portland, and that never really got close to happening. The Blazers offered Cleveland salary relief—Hassan Whiteside and/or Kent Bazemore, both of whom have contracts that run up this season—but would not relinquish a first-round pick in a deal for Love.
Most teams that inquired about Love not only did not want to give up assets to get him, but they wanted Cleveland to include assets because the Cavs were benefiting by not having Love on the books anymore.
Injuries and Frustration for Kevin Love in Cleveland
Back in December, when it was being reported that Love was not happy in Cleveland under then-coach John Beliein, Heavy.com spoke with an Eastern Conference GM, who said, “He’s 31 and he is not a young 31 if you know what I mean. He’s had injuries lately and he’s had injuries throughout his career. There isn’t a lot there to make you think he’ll play 70 or 75 games a year. And for what you’ve got to pay him, it’s going to be tough to justify that to your owner.”
Love dealt with a back injury early in the season, which remains a lingering concern because it’s something that has bothered him, on and off, for years. Love 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.
He also struggled to hide his frustrations this season. That frustration was mostly directed at Beilein, in his first season after having been hired from Michigan. Love felt treated the Cavs like a college team. The frustration subsided after Beilein and the team parted ways in mid-February.
Love has played better at times under new coach J.B. Bickerstaff. But he hasn’t quite blossomed back into an All-Star, his contract is still massively bloated and Cleveland’s status as a rebuilding bottom-feeder is not likely to change any time soon.
If the Cavs continue to value Love and refuse to lower trade demands for him, he’s going to stay put in Cleveland.