Cleveland Cavaliers big man Kevin Love has become a forgotten commodity.
Last offseason, the Cavs gave Love a four-year $120 million extension (which begins in the 2019-20 season) partially to save face. They lost LeBron James to the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, and traded Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics the summer prior.
In the midst of injuries — which limited him to 22 games this season — and, before the 2018-19 season, playing second and, at times, third fiddle to James and Irving, Love’s production and capabilities have been sidetracked. With that said, he can still help a team contend for an NBA championship, or at least get to the postseason.
Since the NBA Finals, Love’s name has surfaced as an offseason trade candidate. Despite giving him a hefty, long-term extension a year ago, there’s reason for the Cavs to trade Love considering their youth movement, highlighted by Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, and now Darius Garland.
Here are three ideal trade destinations for Kevin Love.
Los Angeles Clippers
What appeared like an inevitable marriage between the Clippers and Kawhi Leonard is now in peril, and Kevin Durant’s future is an enigma. But the Clippers will still have roughly $54 million in cap space and would greatly benefit from Love’s presence.
With young legs such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Montrezl Harrell, as well as a dynamite scorer in Lou Williams, the Clippers need a versatile frontline scorer. While he’s adept at playing outside, Love can finish in the post, and having a player with that skill set in 2019 is rare. Plus, while Harrell reeled in 6.5 rebounds per game this season, the Clippers are better off with him being a force inside and playing lockdown defense. Love would be the perfect complement to Harrell given his scoring and rebounding prowess. In each of his last five seasons with the Cavs, Love has averaged 16-plus points and 9-plus rebounds per game.
Adding Love would enhance the Clippers’ chances of rising in the Western Conference. This is a team that won 48 games after trading their top scorer, Tobias Harris, before the NBA trade deadline and took the Golden State Warriors to six games in the first round of the playoffs. They have the grit, talent, will power, and head coach (Doc Rivers) to compete with any team in the league.
A trade that sends the Clippers’ 2020 first-round pick and forward Danilo Gallinari, who is a free agent next summer, to the Cavs benefits both teams. The Cavs add a future draft pick to deepen their core, and the Clippers still have the cap space to sign multiple big-impact players.
The 76ers have a pivotal offseason ahead of them with Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and J.J. Redick — who made up 60 percent of head coach Brett Brown’s starting lineup this season — testing the free agent market. With uncertain futures surrounding the three of them, the 76ers could ensure having a third prominent player by acquiring Love.
Love has a knack for hitting the boards on both ends of the floor and stretches the floor with his outside shooting — a perfect fit next to star center Joel Embiid. Embiid can play outside and finish off fastbreaks, but he’s at his best when operating inside given his size and ever-improving post game. Having Love attracting attention out on the perimeter would limit double-teams inside, allowing Embiid to flourish.
Meanwhile, Love and Ben Simmons would play well together too. Given Simmons’ explosive offensive skill set, whether it be by means of starting fastbreaks, or cutting inside, he draws double-teams, catches defenses off guard, and opens up opportunities outside; all would result in Love getting clean looks.
The 76ers are projected to have roughly $59 million in cap space, meaning they can absorb Love’s $29 million salary for next season. To get this done, they can send Cleveland the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 2020 first-round pick and their own 2020 second-round pick — which is a return that bodes well for the Cavs moving forward, as they likely want to rid themselves of Love’s salary.
The Hornets franchise player, Kemba Walker, is a free agent this summer and will likely be a sought-after commodity. If the Hornets truly want to build a winner around Walker, they need to show him as such, or he may leave. Acquiring Love would be a move that signifies an effort to contend. It would also make them an extremely intriguing team in the Eastern Conference.
The best player the Hornets — and former Charlotte Bobcats — have put alongside Walker was center Al Jefferson, who is now out of the NBA. Love would instantly be the best player Walker has played with, and they’d be a killer one-two scoring punch. Walker attacks the rack, but is also prone to finding the open man, a leader, and would find Love in the right spots out on the perimeter, as well as on baseline cuts.
The Hornets have a handful of young players with upside such as Malik Monk, Miles Bridges, Willy Hernangomez, and the recently drafted PJ Washington. However, they need potent veterans, and plotting Love into their starting five with Walker and a combo of the aforementioned youngsters would give the Hornets a significant chance at making the playoffs in a top-heavy conference.
To acquire Love, Charlotte could send the expiring contracts of Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — who could potentially become a long-term piece for the Cavs — as well as their 2021 first-round pick to Cleveland.