Much of the Cleveland Cavaliers rotation is set. Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell form a two-headed best in the backcourt. Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen hold down the fort up front. And backups like Ricky Rubio and Cedi Osman provide some oomph off the bench.
So what about Kevin Love?
Since the trade deadline wound down, Love has been the target of some buyout speculation. It’s not hard to see why; Love has been a coach’s DNP in each of Cleveland’s last eight games.
He’s apparently fully healthy and ready to contribute, and yet the Cavs haven’t put him on the floor yet this month. According to head coach JB Bickerstaff, the team isn’t moving away from Love, but rather keeping him until the moment the team needs him most.
“It’s not something (playing Kevin) that we want to completely go away from and not give him (Love) opportunities to play and catch a rhythm because I do think there’s going to be times when we really need him,” Bickerstaff said, per Jon Rudder of CavsNation.
When he does see the floor, Love has been up and down. His 35.4% from three marks his lowest rate since his sophomore season. As Cleveland eyes younger options like Dean Wade and Isaac Okoro, it makes sense that Love’s minutes have decreased.
Bickerstaff Concerned with ‘Rhythm’ in Roster Moves
It’s also hard to square Love’s absence with Cleveland’s sudden seven-game win streak. Perhaps another reason Bickerstaff is hesitant to add Love to the mix is that he wants to keep the team on its hot streak.
Bickerstaff hit this point when talking about adding new signing Danny Green to the rotation.
“We will be very ginger with that because we do not want to disrupt the rhythm of what these guys are finding right now,” Bickerstaff said, per Chris Fedor of cleveland.com.
Though he was speaking about Green, the point stands the same for Love. Why add Love in now when Cleveland is winning? Especially when there is a direct correlation between Love’s DNPs and the Cavs’ recent success.
Altman Slams Door on Love Buyout
Regardless, Cavs GM Koby Altman shut down any speculation that Cleveland might be working towards a buyout with Love.
“I have not been approached by them at all and I don’t anticipate it either,” Altman said on February 9. “Not one time since I’ve been here have they approached me about that. I think we’re asking Kevin to make another sacrifice this year to do what he’s doing right now, which is be a great teammate, stay positive every day, stay ready and work on your body, work on your shot, work on everything to be ready for when that opportunity comes next.”
Instead, the Cavs will likely rely on Love’s veteran leadership come playoff time. He’s one of the few remaining players from the LeBron James-era Cavaliers, whose destined trips to the Finals every season seemed preordained.
Love’s official role when that time comes, though, remains to be seen. Will he take the floor? Or act more as a locker room sage, cheering the team on from the sidelines? Only time will tell.