Of all the names thrown out there so far in “Trade Season” by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Cleveland Cavaliers PF/C Kevin Love appears to be the closest one to being dealt. Love is visibly unhappy in Cleveland and wants to be traded to a contender for a shot at another ring. This is understandable for a veteran who has mostly been on poor teams throughout his career when LeBron James isn’t around. With the anticipation of Love being traded, let’s take a look at some of the top contenders in need of his services.
The Blazers seem like the most logical landing spot for Love. He’s from Oregon and adds size to a Portland frontcourt that is lacking in the department with Jusuf Nurkic out. Love’s ability to stretch the floor would create a very tough lineup to defend with Carmelo Anthony, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard all capable shooters. The Blazers have an expiring contract in Kent Bazemore and a protected first-round pick, likely a lottery protected pick. Assuming Love boosts the Blazers enough, Portland could avoid landing in the lottery, which would net the Cavaliers a mid-round first.
Before every Celtics fan starts yelling “TRADER DANNY” at my face, let’s just relax and realize that this makes the most sense for Boston. The team lacks a big like Love — one who can stretch the floor and play both the 4 and 5. Imagine a lineup of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Kevin Love. That’s a team that can compete for a spot in the NBA Finals. The question is: Would the Celtics be willing to part with Marcus Smart? Probably not, but look at that starting five. Forget grit and tenacity for a second and consider that starting lineup could be unstoppable on offense.
We’ll start with the cap situation for the Mavericks. Dallas has about $12M before it hits the luxury tax threshold, according to Spotrac. Mark Cuban probably doesn’t care about paying the luxury tax if it means bringing in a guy like Love to a core of Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic. The Mavericks can package their first-round pick in 2020 knowing it will likely be in the later part of the round. They can also dump Courtney Lee’s expiring contract on Cleveland. Woj mentioned that would essentially be what it would take for a team to grab Love. Porzingis, Love and Luka, plus a deep bench, would make the Mavs legit contenders in the West.
It would be very interesting if the Suns got involved in the Love talks. They’re getting Deandre Ayton back from suspension and have a void at the 4 where Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky have been primarily playing. Neither of them are above-average starters, so adding Love to the starting lineup makes Phoenix more formidable. The Suns can offer Tyler Johnson’s expiring contract at $19 million and have plenty of luxury tax space to fit in Love’s big salary. Phoenix also has their own first-rounder and the Bucks’ from the Eric Bledsoe trade that should transfer with Milwaukee outside of the top 7. This seems like sneakily the best option for both sides. A Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr., Kevin Love, Deandre Ayton lineup ... I need a cigarette.