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Making sense of the Kevin Love debate

Yesterday, Grantland posted a piece by Zach Lowe on how the Cavs and Warriors can have a repeat performance in next seasons NBA Finals. In it Lowe discussed the various pros and cons of retaining and letting go certain players for both teams, emphasizing the salary cap restrictions of each team. In it Lowe wrote:
“…plugged-in executives around the league continue to predict the Cavs will sign-and-trade Love after advancing so far without him. That would unclutter the power forward spot, and if the Cavs can recoup rotation players and picks, they’d have to at least consider it. Love needs the ball to live up to a max contract, and even Griffin has told me that watching LeBron carry a misfit cast within two wins of the title taught him a lot about the kind of supporting cast he wants around his centerpiece.
Lowe added a quote by the Cavs GM for emphasis:
“LeBron needs to have the ball so much for you to be as good as you can be, and you need to be very selective about the guys who get to have it when he doesn’t,” Griffin said. “You cannot have too much ball dominance around him.”
While it makes for juicy rumors, it would be extremely short-sighted of Griffin to trade Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett was a throw-in and nothing more, for a one-year rental of Love. Thinking back, Love’s impending free agency was the big risk in the trade, and now the rumor is the Cavs would sign-and-trade him because of how far they made it in the playoffs while Love was injured.

First, Lowe has forgotten more about basketball than I’ll ever know, and if he is reporting it, it’s most likely what he is hearing. The thing is, the logic works both ways.


What if Love would’ve been healthy for the Finals? His shooting, floor spacing, and rebounding would have helped LeBron James immensely, as James was forced to create about half the Cavs offense by himself. While thinking the Cavs made it all the way to the Finals without Love is great, the truth is Love could have given James more rest in the playoffs. Sure, the defense wouldn't have been as tough, but the offense wouldn’t have to completely rely on James on every possession.

Love has been a Cavalier less than a full year, and has consistently been the center of nearly every rumor, whether it’s he’s leaving for (insert random team name here) up to the Cavs will sign-and-trade him.


Does anyone remember how happy James was with Miami when they amnestied Mike Miller? So Griffin trades Wiggins for a one year rental of Love, to sign-and-trade him for role players because James can carry a team of nobodies in the playoffs? Trading a cost-controlled rookie with tons of potential and upside for a year of Love, to sign-and-trade him, doesn't even help the Cavs salary cap.


In his post-Finals press conference, Griffin talked about including Love, James, and Kyrie Irving in off-season moves. As far as needing to have less ball-dominant players, like Love (but not Love specifically) around James, Griffin said:
“I think towards the end LeBron was being asked to carry far too heavy a burden offensively. Frankly, with the other two out he was our only real offensive playmaker, and it was by design that you built it that way because you want to put the right pieces around him.”
The Cavs have a myriad of roster and financial decisions to make. While Love may not have been an All-Star last season, James, Love, and Irving averaged a combined 63.4 points per game. Love averaged 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds a game, while being a consistent offensive threat. Yes, it took time for him to find his role in the offense and adjust to being a third option, but what other team has the luxury of 16 points and almost 10 rebounds a game as a third option?

When Love was injured and Tristan Thompson started, the Cavs offense struggled with spacing. Love has consistently been a productive rebounder and scorer, the problem was his defense, or lack thereof. He averages a double-double for his career with 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds and don’t forget those beautiful crosscourt outlet passes.

Another year under the same coach and another year with the same core of players can only help Love’s comfort level in the offense. Familiarity will remove a lot of the uncertainty surrounding his role, while also being a year removed from the trade and it’s pressure of a win now mentality(remember the home opener against the New York Knicks where the Cavs collectively wilted?).

I don’t think it’s wise for the Cavs to have so much money tied up in one position, possibly two max-contract players, but it’s not my money. I also don’t think Thompson is worth the max. He is in a great spot with the Cavaliers as little is expected out of him offensively. His job is to rebound and defend. Thompson is not a rim-protector, that’s why the Cavs had to invest multiple first-round picks in a trade for center Timofey Mozgov. Thompson is’t a scorer, and even his defense doesn’t bring back memories of Kawhi Leonard. Thompson is a bit stiff and sometimes struggled to close out on Draymond "we won, they suck" Green of the Warriors during the Finals.

That’s not to say I’d be ok with the Cavs letting Thompson go, but his value is in his hustle, work ethic, rebounding, and health. Looking at the Cavs roster, Mozgov was often removed from games for defensive purposes, Anderson Varejao has spent more time injured than on the court over the last three seasons, Kendrick Perkins will probably seek out a larger role somewhere else, and Brendan Haywood is a trade asset, not a player at this stage of his career. Thompson has value. He can do things that other bigs on the roster can’t do, but that doesn’t mean it’s maximum value.
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