The Portland Trail Blazers have been the NBA team that has ogled for Kevin Love the longest, yearning for the Lake Oswego High School star to return to his old stomping grounds.
While a sharpshooting big is a fit in Portland, the Blazers would also be adding to the series of maladies that have haunted them thus far this season.
Here are some pros and cons of trading for Kevin Love, who clearly wants out of Cleveland and has been linked to Portland.
Love is a surefire deep threat
While Carmelo Anthony is knocking down a sweet 41.1% from beyond the arc for the Blazers this season, Love has a well-established track record of canning treys. A 37.1% career 3-point shooter, Love has made two or more treys per game in the past five seasons and 1.9 or above in the last seven.
Having that type of threat in the frontcourt is no joke and having the dual threat of an in-close finisher and a 3-point sniper bodes well for an offense that sees plenty of drive-and-kick opportunities.
He can still rebound at a high rate
Love has grabbed nine or more rebounds per game in every season of his career. He’s snatching a healthy average of 10.2 boards off the glass every game, though still a considerable dropoff from Hassan Whiteside’s 14.0 per game, which ranks fourth-best in the league.
Assuming he’s asked to play at his natural power forward position, he could mesh well with Jusuf Nurkic, allowing the bulldozer to do damage inside while he spreads the floor with his shooting. The two are also capable offensive rebounders, though Love has lost a lot of his board-crashing aggression as he has veered more toward the 3-point line.
Love is an aging player with a huge contract, decreasing skills
At 31 years old, Love already has signed his biggest contract, a four-year, $120 million extension he inked with the Cleveland Cavaliers at the beginning of last season. If the Blazers trade for him, they would have to pay $90-plus million for the next three and a half seasons, a contract that already looks plenty burdensome to other potential suitors like the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets.
According to reports, the Cavs are expecting to get a first-round pick in return out of that potential deal, but so are teams inquiring about him, which makes this trade less of a roster upgrade and more of a let’s-take-him-off-your-hands-and-see-what-we-get type of deal.
Love has been far from the 20-and-10 presence the Cavs had expected him to be when they signed him to his big extension. He’s averaging 16.8 points and 10.2 rebounds this season, and his scoring average and 46.1% field goal percentage have been greatly aided by his recent 30-point night on 12-of-15 shooting.
He’s no longer the board-crashing, outlet-bombing, dime-slipping maestro he used to be in his last season with the Timberwolves, but rather a player with a third-option mentality after four years with the LeBron James-led Cavaliers.
He’s a defensive liability
If there’s something the Blazers have greatly struggled with, it’s defense. Bringing in Love and taking away the team’s lone shot-blocking presence in Hassan Whiteside is a suicide attempt waiting to happen.
Whiteside is averaging 2.91 blocks per game — far and away the best in the league — yet none of the other Blazers average even a block per outing. Bringing in Love, who has blocked 0.5 shots per game or less in each of his last 11 seasons, certainly wouldn’t help matters.
Trading Whiteside for Love would be a huge dropoff when it comes to rim protection, going from the league’s best shot-stuffer to one who shies away from making plays and defers to others. He’s a liability on pick-and-rolls and constantly exploited by quicker guards and outwitted by skilled forwards and centers.
While Jusuf Nurkic would provide some rim protection, he’s only half of the shot-blocker Whiteside has been this season, never quite reaching 1.5 blocks per game in his career.
Love’s upside is thwarted by a history of injuries
Take away the three middle seasons of his career (2013-14—2015-16) and you will find that Kevin Love is hardly ever fully healthy through the course of an NBA season. He had his 2012-13 season cut short to 18 games due to a fracture to his shooting hand.
Love recently played 60 games in 2016-17, 59 games in 2017-18, and 22 games last season due to a big toe injury on his left foot.
To give a player with that poor track record a $90-plus million salary over the next three and a half years is confining the franchise to its financial doom.
The Blazers already have the highest payroll in the league after giving Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum extensions this summer. The team reportedly wants to re-sign Jusuf Nurkic. Trading for Kevin Love would surely wash that prospect out of the future, as well as the potential for other acquisitions in years to come.